The development of physical aggression in toddlers is strongly associated genetic factors and to a lesser degree with the environment, according to a new study led by Eric Lacourse of the University of Montreal and its affiliated CHU Sainte-Justine Hospital. Lacourse's worked with the parents of identical and non-identical twins to evaluate and compare their behaviour, environment and genetics.
"The gene-environment analyses revealed that early genetic factors were pervasive in accounting for developmental trends, explaining most of the stability and change in physical aggression, " Lacourse said. "However, it should be emphasized that these genetic associations do not imply that the early trajectories of physical aggression are set and unchangeable. Genetic factors can always interact with other factors from the environment in the causal chain explaining any behaviour."
Over the past 25 years, research on early development of physical aggression has been highly influenced by social learning theories that suggest the onset and development of physical aggression is mainly determined by accumulated exposure to aggressive role models in the social environment and the media. However, the results of studies on early childhood physical aggression indicate that physical aggression starts during infancy and peaks between the ages of 2 and 4. Although for most children the use of physical aggression initiated by the University of Montreal team peaks during early childhood, these studies also show that there are substantial differences in both frequency at onset and rate of change of physical aggression due to the interplay of genetic and environmental factors over time. Genetically informed studies of disruptive behavior and different forms of aggression across the lifespan generally conclude that genetic factors account for approximately 50% of the variance in the population.
Lacourse and his colleagues posited and tested three general patterns regarding the developmental roles of genetic and environmental factors in physical aggression. First, the most consensual and general point of view is that both sources of influence are ubiquitous and involved in the stability of physical aggression. Second, a "genetic set point" model suggests a single set of genetic factors could account for the level of physical aggression across time. A third pattern labeled 'genetic maturation' postulates new sources of genetic and environmental influences with age. "According to the genetic maturation hypothesis, new environmental contributions to physical aggression could be of short duration in contrast to genetic factors," Lacourse explained.
About the twins cohort
This twin study was initiated by Michel Boivin of Laval University and Richard Tremblay, who is also affiliated with the University of Montreal and University College Dublin. All parents of twins born between April 1995 and December 1998 in the Greater Montreal area (Canada) were invited to participate, which resulted in the participation of 667 monozygotic and dizygotic twin pairs. Monozygotic means the twins originated from the same embryo – they are genetically identical. Dizogytic means they developed in separate embryos, meaning they are not identical.
Mothers were ask to rate their twins physical aggression, by reporting behaviour such as hitting, biting, kicking and fighting, at the ages of 20, 32 and 50 months. "The results of the gene-environment analyses provided some support for the genetic set-point hypotheses, but mostly for the genetic maturation hypotheses," Lacourse said. "Genetic factors always explained a substantial part of individual differences in physical aggression. More generally, the limited role of shared environmental factors in physical aggression clashes with the results of studies of singletons in which many family or parent level factors were found to predict developmental trajectories of physical aggression during preschool." Our results suggest that the effect of those factors may not be as direct as was previously though.
Long-term studies of physical aggression clearly show that most children, adolescent and adults eventually learn to use alternatives to physical aggression. "Because early childhood propensities may evoke negative responses from parents and peers, and consequently create contexts where the use of physical aggression is maintained and reinforced, early physical aggression needs to be dealt with care," Lacourse said. "These cycles of aggression between children and siblings or parents, as well as between children and their peers, could support the development of chronic physical aggression." We are presently exploring the impact of these gene and social environment interactions.
About this study
Eric Lacourse, PhD, Michel Boivin, PhD, Mara Brendgen, PhD, Amélie Petitclerc, PhD, Alain Girard, MSc, Frank Vitaro, PhD, Stéphane Paquin, PhD candidate, Isabelle Ouellet-Morin, PhD, Ginette Dionne, PhD and Richard E. Tremblay, PhD published "A longitudinal twin study of physical aggression during early childhood: Evidence for a developmentally dynamic genome" in Psychological Medicine on January 21, 2014.
This research was supported by grants from the National Health Research Development Program, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Quebec Ministry of Health and Social Services, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Canada Research Chair program, the Fonds Québécois de la Recherche sur la Société et la Culture, and the Fonds de la Recherche en Santé du Québec.
E. Lacourse, M. Boivin, M. Brendgen, A. Girard, F. Vitaro, S. Paquin, I. Ouellet-Morin, G. Dionne, and R. E. Tremblay, are affiliated with Research Unit on Children's Psychosocial Adjustment, Ste-Justine Hospital Research Center, affiliated with the University of Montreal. E. Lacourse and S. Paquin are affiliated with the University of Montreal's Department of Sociology, F. Vitaro with its Department of Psychoeducation, and I. Ouellet-Morin with its School of Criminology and the university's affiliated Mental Health Institute of Montreal Research Center. A. Petitclerc is affiliated with the National Center for Children and Families, Teachers College at Columbia University. M. Boivin and G. Dionne are affiliated with the School of Psychology at Laval University. M. Brendgen is affiliated with the Department of Psychology at Université du Québec. R. E. Tremblay is also affiliated with the University of Montreal's departments of psychology and pediatrics and with the School of Public Health, Physiotherapy and Population Science at University College Dublin, Ireland. The University of Montreal is officially known as Université de Montréal.
Julie Gazaille | EurekAlert!
Researchers simplify tiny structures' construction drip by drip
12.11.2018 | Princeton University, Engineering School
Mandibular movement monitoring may help improve oral sleep apnea devices
06.11.2018 | Elsevier
Innsbruck quantum physicists have constructed a diode for magnetic fields and then tested it in the laboratory. The device, developed by the research groups led by the theorist Oriol Romero-Isart and the experimental physicist Gerhard Kirchmair, could open up a number of new applications.
Electric diodes are essential electronic components that conduct electricity in one direction but prevent conduction in the opposite one. They are found at the...
Max Planck researchers revel the nano-structure of molecular trains and the reason for smooth transport in cellular antennas.
Moving around, sensing the extracellular environment, and signaling to other cells are important for a cell to function properly. Responsible for those tasks...
Researchers at the University of New Hampshire have captured a difficult-to-view singular event involving "magnetic reconnection"--the process by which sparse particles and energy around Earth collide producing a quick but mighty explosion--in the Earth's magnetotail, the magnetic environment that trails behind the planet.
Magnetic reconnection has remained a bit of a mystery to scientists. They know it exists and have documented the effects that the energy explosions can...
Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.
Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...
Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.
In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...
19.11.2018 | Event News
09.11.2018 | Event News
06.11.2018 | Event News
21.11.2018 | Life Sciences
21.11.2018 | Medical Engineering
21.11.2018 | Physics and Astronomy