The Power of Peers: Do Deviant Peers Facilitate or Suppress Genetic Contributions to Externalizing Behavior Open Access
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Abstract of DissertationThe Power of Peers: Do Deviant Peers Facilitate or Suppress Genetic Contributions to Externalizing BehaviorDuring adolescence, children’s social norms are increasingly established and enforced by peers. Affiliation with deviant peers at this time is an established risk factor for externalizing behavior, presumably because peers model, encourage, and permit antisocial behavior. What is unclear however is the degree to which deviant peers facilitate the expression of genetically influenced predispositions to externalizing behavior (contextual triggering), or whether peers socialize behavior and suppress genetic predispositions (social control). To examine these questions, a biometric moderation model was employed to examine the degree to which peer deviance moderates genetic and environmental contributions to externalizing behaviors during adolescence.Analyses used archived data from the Nonshared Environment and Adolescent Development (NEAD) project. NEAD included a national sample of 708 same sex sibling pairs from never-divorced families and stepfamilies from the USA: monozygotic twin (N=93), dizygotic twin (N=99), and full sibling (N=95) pairs from never-divorced families, and full sibling (N=182), half sibling (N=109), and unrelated sibling (N=130) pairs from stepfamilies. The mean ages of Sibling 1 and Sibling 2 were 14.52 and 12.91, respectively. Mothers and fathers reported on their own perceptions of their adolescents’ involvement with deviant and prosocial peers (Perceptions of Child’s Peers) and on their adolescents’ engagement in externalizing behavior (Zill Behavior Inventory).Analyses indicated that peer deviance moderates genetic and nonshared environmental contributions to adolescent externalizing behaviors. Specifically, at higher levels of peer deviance, genetic contributions to externalizing behavior were stronger, while nonshared environmental contributions were weaker. Shared environmental contributions were significant, but not moderated by peer deviance. These findings are consistent with a contextual triggering model of gene-environment interaction: within the context of deviant peers, the heritability of externalizing behaviors was higher, while nonshared environmental contributions were lower. Therefore, deviant peers appear to enhance the expression of genetic predispositions to externalizing behaviors rather than exert social control. These findings provide insight into the process through which deviant peers affect the development of externalizing behavior.