Heritability for adolescent antisocial behavior differs with socioeconomic status: gene–environment interaction


Catherine Tuvblad, Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, P.O. Box 281, SE-17177 Stockholm, Sweden. Tel: +46-8-52487484; Fax +46-8-314975; Email: Catherine.Tuvblad@meb.ki.se


Background:  Socioeconomic status is often assumed to be of importance for the development of antisocial behavior, yet it explains only a fraction of the variance. One explanation for this paradox could be that socioeconomic status moderates the influence of genetic and environmental effects on antisocial behavior.

Method:  TCHAD is a Swedish longitudinal population-based twin study that contains 1,480 twin pairs born 1985–1986. The present study included 1,133 twin pairs, aged 16–17 years. Antisocial behavior was measured through self-report. Family socioeconomic status was assessed by parental-reported education and occupational status. Neighborhood socioeconomic conditions were assessed using five aggregated level variables: ethnic diversity, basic educational level, unemployment level, buying power, and crime-rate. We used structural equation modeling to test whether socioeconomic status interacted with latent genetic and environmental effects for antisocial behavior.

Results:  Genetic influences on antisocial behavior were more important in adolescents in socioeconomically more advantaged environments, whereas the shared environment was higher in adolescents in socioeconomically less advantaged environments. Heritability for antisocial behavior was higher in girls than in boys, irrespective of socioeconomic background.

Conclusions:  Our results suggest that different intervention policies should be considered in different socioeconomic areas. In socioeconomically advantaged areas, it might be more fruitful to focus on individually based preventions and treatments. In socioeconomically disadvantaged areas, intervention and prevention policies might be more effective on a community level, to account for shared environmental risk factors.