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J Abnorm Psychol. 2000 Nov;109(4):634-43.

Evidence for a genetic etiology of early-onset delinquency.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities Campus, USA.


Age at onset of antisocial behavior discriminates persistent and transitory offenders. The authors proposed that early-onset delinquency has an underlying genetic influence that manifests in problems related to inhibition, whereas late-onset delinquency is more environmentally mediated. To test these notions, they selected 36 early starters, 86 late starters, and 25 nondelinquent controls from a large sample of 11-year-old twins and compared them on several measures related to inhibition and a peer group measure. As expected, early starters had more psychological, behavioral, and emotional problems related to inhibition than late starters and controls. A longitudinal analysis indicated an increase an antisocial behavior among peers of late starters shortly before their delinquency onset. Family history data and a twin analysis provided evidence of greater genetic influence on early-onset than late-onset delinquency.

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