Religiousness, Antisocial Behavior, and Altruism: Genetic and Environmental Mediation


concerning this article should be sent to Laura B. Koenig, Department of Psychology, University of Minnesota, N218 Elliott Hall, 75 East River Road, Minneapolis, MN 55455. E-mail:


ABSTRACT Although religiousness is considered a protective factor against antisocial behaviors and a positive influence on prosocial behaviors, it remains unclear whether these associations are primarily genetically or environmentally mediated. In order to investigate this question, religiousness, antisocial behavior, and altruistic behavior were assessed by self-report in a sample of adult male twins (165 MZ and 100 DZ full pairs, mean age of 33 years). Religiousness, both retrospective and current, was shown to be modestly negatively correlated with antisocial behavior and modestly positively correlated with altruistic behavior. Joint biometric analyses of religiousness and antisocial behavior or altruistic behavior were completed. The relationship between religiousness and antisocial behavior was due to both genetic and shared environmental effects. Altruistic behavior also shared most all of its genetic influence, but only half of its shared environmental influence, with religiousness.