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J Youth Adolesc. 2014 Jul;43(7):1080-95. doi: 10.1007/s10964-014-0108-9. Epub 2014 Mar 2.

Resilience and vulnerability in adolescents: genetic influences on differential response to risk for delinquency.

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  • 1Department of Criminal Justice, University of Texas at San Antonio, San Antonio, TX, 78207, USA,


Prior research has identified a vast number of correlates for delinquent behavior during adolescence, yet a considerable number of errors in prediction remain. These errors suggest that behavioral development among a portion of youths is not well understood, with some exhibiting resilience and others a heightened vulnerability to risks. Examining cases that do not confirm prediction outcomes provides an opportunity to achieve a greater understanding of the relationships between risk factors and delinquency, which can be used to improve theoretical explanations of behavior. This study explores the contribution of genetic and environmental factors to differences in individual responses to cumulative risk for delinquency among a sample of adolescent twins (N = 784 pairs, 49 % female) in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. The results indicate that additive genetic and unique environmental factors significantly contribute to variation in responses to cumulative risk across 14 risk factors spanning individual, familial, and environmental domains. When analyzed separately, the majority of the difference between vulnerable youths and the overall population was attributed to genetic influences, while differences between resilient youths and the population were primarily attributed to environmental influences. The findings illustrate the importance of examining both genetic and environmental influences in order to enhance explanations of adolescent offending.

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