Genes and environment interact in first graders to predict physical but not social aggression

Feb 07, 2008

Physical aggression in children comes from their genes and the environment in which they grow up. Social aggression, such as spreading rumors or ignoring other children, has less to do with genetic factors and more with environmental factors.

One important environmental influence on children is friends. But while past studies have shown an association between physically aggressive friends and increased physical aggression in children and teens, few studies have looked at how socially aggressive friends affect children’s social aggression, nor have they considered possible gene-environment transactions in these behaviors.

A new study by researchers at the University of Quebec at Montreal, Laval University, Concordia University, and the University of Montreal sought to determine whether the interaction between nature and nurture, that is, between children’s genetic disposition to aggression and friends’ aggression (social or physical), could help explain differences in children’s own aggression. The study appears in the January/February 2008 issue of Child Development.

The researchers assessed approximately 400 pairs of 7-year-old twins, each of whom was asked to list up to three friends in their classroom. Teachers and peers evaluated the twins’ and their friends’ levels of social and physical aggression.

The researchers found that friends’ physical aggression interacts with genetic liability to predict children’s own physical aggression. Specifically, the genetic disposition to physical aggression is more likely to express itself when children are exposed to physically aggressive friends. No gene-environment interaction was found with respect to children’s social aggression. Instead, friends’ social aggression seems to be directly associated with children’s own social aggression, independent of children’s genetic disposition to this behavior.

The results also revealed that the effect of friends’ aggression on children’s aggression only seems to occur in the context of the same type of aggression. In other words, friends’ physical aggression predicts children’s physical but not their social aggression, whereas friends’ social aggression predicts children’s social but not their physical aggression.

Source: Society for Research in Child Development

Explore further: New research demonstrates benefits of national and international device registries

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Social sensing game detects classroom bullies

Nov 19, 2014

A social sensing game created at Illinois allows researchers to study natural interactions between children, collect large amounts of data about those interactions and test theories about youth aggression ...

Current state of the American family

Oct 21, 2014

Most young Americans plan to get married someday, but more than 40 percent of births now occur outside marriage, and the American family itself has become far more diverse and varied.

Recommended for you

New approach to particle therapy dosimetry

Dec 19, 2014

Researchers at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL), in collaboration with EMRP partners, are working towards a universal approach to particle beam therapy dosimetry.

Supplement maker admits lying about ingredients

Dec 17, 2014

Federal prosecutors say the owner and president of a dietary supplement company has admitted his role in the sale of diluted and adulterated dietary ingredients and supplements sold by his company.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.