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

February 7, 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: Why having the sex talk early and often with your kids is good for them

Related Stories

Why having the sex talk early and often with your kids is good for them

October 10, 2017
Parents may be uncomfortable initiating "the sex talk," but whether they want to or not, parents teach their kids about sex and sexuality. Kids learn early what a sexual relationship looks like.

School, health and behavior suffer when children have TV, video games in bedroom

September 26, 2017
A new Iowa State University study is one of the first to demonstrate the consequences of allowing children to have a TV or video game system in their bedroom.

For boys at risk of psychopathy, laughter isn't so contagious

September 28, 2017
For most people, laughter is highly contagious. It's nearly impossible to hear or see someone laughing and not feel the urge to join in. But researchers reporting in Current Biology on September 28 have new evidence to show ...

Nowhere to go: Young people with severe autism languish in hospitals

October 3, 2017
Teenagers and young adults with severe autism are spending weeks or even months in emergency rooms and acute-care hospitals, sometimes sedated, restrained or confined to mesh-tented beds, a Kaiser Health News investigation ...

Brain cancer breakthrough could provide better treatment

September 19, 2017
A new discovery about the most common type of childhood brain cancer could transform treatment for young patients by enabling doctors to give the most effective therapies.

Most alternative therapies for treating autism show inconclusive benefits

September 27, 2017
Dr. Shafali Jeste knows well the desperation of a parent seeking a cure for their child with autism spectrum disorder. As a clinician who both researches the causes of the disorder and treats children with autism, Jeste, ...

Recommended for you

Drug therapy from lethal bacteria could reduce kidney transplant rejection

August 3, 2017
An experimental treatment derived from a potentially deadly microorganism may provide lifesaving help for kidney transplant patients, according to an international study led by investigators at Cedars-Sinai.

Exploring the potential of human echolocation

June 25, 2017
People who are visually impaired will often use a cane to feel out their surroundings. With training and practice, people can learn to use the pitch, loudness and timbre of echoes from the cane or other sounds to navigate ...

Team eradicates hepatitis C in 10 patients following lifesaving transplants from infected donors

April 30, 2017
Ten patients at Penn Medicine have been cured of the Hepatitis C virus (HCV) following lifesaving kidney transplants from deceased donors who were infected with the disease. The findings point to new strategies for increasing ...

'bench to bedside to bench': Scientists call for closer basic-clinical collaborations

March 24, 2017
In the era of genome sequencing, it's time to update the old "bench-to-bedside" shorthand for how basic research discoveries inform clinical practice, researchers from The Jackson Laboratory (JAX), National Human Genome Research ...

The ethics of tracking athletes' biometric data

January 18, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—Whether it is a FitBit or a heart rate monitor, biometric technologies have become household devices. Professional sports leagues use some of the most technologically advanced biodata tracking systems to ...

Financial ties between researchers and drug industry linked to positive trial results

January 18, 2017
Financial ties between researchers and companies that make the drugs they are studying are independently associated with positive trial results, suggesting bias in the evidence base, concludes a study published by The BMJ ...

0 comments

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.