Understanding Social Role Contributions to Antisocial Behavior in Adolescence and Adulthood: A Genetically Informed Approach

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Understanding Social Role Contributions to Antisocial Behavior in Adolescence and Adulthood: A Genetically Informed Approach

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Social role transitions (including marriage and parenthood) are putative factors thought to predict desistance from antisocial behavior. However, it is difficult to distinguish whether these social role transitions cause a reduction in antisociality or if individual differences in antisocial behavior lead to these differences prior to social role transition. We examined the relationship between antisocial behavior (ASB) and marriage and early adult parenthood in a longitudinal study with a genetically informative sample, including a large number of female subjects. Our study included assessment of antisocial behavior both before and after these social role transitions. We also used a co-twin control (CTC) design which controls for familial factors (genetics and environment), and estimated to what degree the married twin's antisociality resembles that of the unmarried co-twin (or the early parenting co-twin resembled the non-parenting co-twin). There was no evidence of pre-existing difference in the antisociality of members of twin pairs who later became discordant for marriage or early parenthood. However, after the social role transitions, married and early-parenting co-twins were less antisocial than their co-twins who did not undergo the social role transition. This is consistent with evidence of a causal role of social roles in reductions of antisocial behavior in adulthood. We also explored the association between social role transitions and psychopathic personality traits, which are thought to underlie stable antisocial behavior. There are multiple dimensions to psychopathy, and these dimensions differ in their associations with other important characteristics. In particular, the affective and interpersonal factor of psychopathy, which is driven by low fear, may be adaptive in some contexts, whereas the behavioral disinhibition factor is more consistently associated with risk and poor outcome. We examined the relationship between two factors, Fearless Dominance (FD) and Impulsive Antisociality (IA), and these social role transitions, and the timing of these transitions. IA consistently predicted less adaptive outcomes (lower likelihood of marriage, higher likelihood of divorce, earlier parenthood), and FD was more variable (higher likelihood of divorce in female subjects, later parenthood). We also evaluated gender differences and results were largely consistent across male and female subjects. These results suggest that the interpersonal/affective quality of psychopathy may be associated with both positive and negative development, whereas behavioral disinhibition is more consistently associated with poorer outcomes.


University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. July 2014. Major: Psychology. Advisors: William Iacono, Matthew Mc Gue. 1 computer file (PDF); vii, 131 pages.

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Ward, Sarah. (2014). Understanding Social Role Contributions to Antisocial Behavior in Adolescence and Adulthood: A Genetically Informed Approach. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy, https://hdl.handle.net/11299/182226.

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