Posted on January 6, 2015

The Etiologic Role of Genetic and Environmental Factors in Criminal Behavior

KS Kendler et al., PubMed, December 23, 2014



Twin studies have shown that criminal behavior (CB) is influenced by both genetic and shared environmental factors. Could these results be replicated using full-siblings and half-siblings?


In 911 009 full-siblings reared together (FSRT), 41 872 half-siblings reared together (HSRT) and 52 590 half-siblings reared apart (HSRA), CB was assessed from the Swedish Crime Register. Modeling, including testing for age differences and rearing status, was performed using the OpenMx package.


Five sibling models were fitted examining FSRT and HSRT 0-2 years different in age, and both FSRT and HSRT, and FSRT, HSRT and HSRA 0-10 years different in age with and without a specified shared environment indexing age differences. Heritability estimates for CB ranged from 33 to 55% in females and 39 to 56% in males, similar to those found in our prior twin study on the same population. Estimates for the shared environment varied from 1 to 14% in females and 10 to 23% in males, lower than those estimated in the twin study. The specified shared environment indexed by sibling age differences was significant in all models tested.


Heritability estimates for CB from full- and half-siblings closely approximated those found from twins in the same population, validating the twin method. Shared environmental estimates were lower, suggesting the presence of shared environmental factors for CB specific to twins. When rearing status can be assessed, full- and half-siblings offer an additional method for assessing the role of genetic and environmental factors in complex disorders. However, age differences in siblings may need to be included in the models.