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Biol Psychiatry. 2012 Feb 1;71(3):247-53. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2011.05.019. Epub 2011 Jul 18.

A multivariate twin study of the DSM-IV criteria for antisocial personality disorder.

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  • 1Virginia Institute of Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics, Medical College of Virginia/Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia 23298-0126, USA.



Many assessment instruments for psychopathy are multidimensional, suggesting that distinguishable factors are needed to effectively capture variation in this personality domain. However, no prior study has examined the factor structure of the DSM-IV criteria for antisocial personality disorder (ASPD).


Self-report questionnaire items reflecting all A criteria for DSM-IV ASPD were available from 4291 twins (including both members of 1647 pairs) from the Virginia Adult Study of Psychiatric and Substance Use Disorders. Exploratory factor analysis and twin model fitting were performed using, respectively, Mplus and Mx.


Phenotypic factor analysis produced evidence for two correlated factors: aggressive-disregard and disinhibition. The best-fitting multivariate twin model included two genetic and one unique environmental common factor, along with criteria-specific genetic and environmental effects. The two genetic factors closely resembled the phenotypic factors and varied in their prediction of a range of relevant criterion variables. Scores on the genetic aggressive-disregard factor score were more strongly associated with risk for conduct disorder, early and heavy alcohol use, and low educational status, whereas scores on the genetic disinhibition factor score were more strongly associated with younger age, novelty seeking, and major depression.


From a genetic perspective, the DSM-IV criteria for ASPD do not reflect a single dimension of liability but rather are influenced by two dimensions of genetic risk reflecting aggressive-disregard and disinhibition. The phenotypic structure of the ASPD criteria results largely from genetic and not from environmental influences.

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