Using data from over 1,000 male and female twins participating in the Minnesota Twin Family Study, the authors examined developmental change, gender differences, and genetic and environmental contributions to the symptom levels of four externalizing disorders (adult antisocial behavior, alcohol dependence, nicotine dependence, and drug dependence) from ages 17 to 24. Both men and women increased in symptoms for each externalizing disorder, with men increasing at a greater rate than women, such that a modest gender gap at age 17 widened to a large one at age 24. Additionally, a mean-level gender difference on a latent Externalizing factor could account for the mean-level gender differences for the individual disorders. Biometric analyses revealed increasing genetic variation and heritability for men but a trend toward decreasing genetic variation and increasing environmental effects for women. Results illustrate the importance of gender and developmental context for symptom expression and the utility of structural models to integrate general trends and disorder-specific characteristics.
- antisocial behavior
- externalizing disorders
- gender differences
- heritability substance use disorders