Age-of-onset or behavioral sub-types? A prospective comparison of two approaches to characterizing the heterogeneity within antisocial behavior

S. Alexandra Burt, M. Brent Donnellan, William G. Iacono, Matt McGue

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations

Abstract

There are two common approaches to sub-typing the well-documented heterogeneity within antisocial behavior: age-of-onset (i.e.; childhood-onset versus adolescence-onset; see Moffitt 1993) and behavioral (i.e.; physical aggression versus non-aggressive rule-breaking). These approaches appear to be associated, such that aggression is more characteristic of childhood-onset antisocial behavior whereas rule-breaking is linked to both child- and adolescence-onset antisocial behavior. However, it remains unclear which approach, if either, better explains the heterogeneity within antisocial behavior. We examined this question in a prospective sample of male twins, assessed at the ages of 11, 14, 17, and 24 years. Although the age-of-onset subtypes predicted adult antisocial behavior in the expected direction when analyzed alone, this association dissipated once we controlled for aggression and rule-breaking. Such findings suggest that the behavioral sub-types of antisocial behavior may be a stronger predictor of later antisocial outcomes than is its age-of-onset.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)633-644
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Abnormal Child Psychology
Volume39
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgements This research was funded by USPHS Grants # DA05147. None of the authors had any financial interest in the outcome of this study. The lead author had full access to all of the data in the study and takes responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis.

Keywords

  • Age-of-onset
  • Aggression
  • Antisocial behavior
  • Rule-breaking

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