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Evidence of gene–environment correlation for peer difficulties: Disruptive behaviors predict early peer relation difficulties in school through genetic effects

  • Michel Boivin (a1), Mara Brendgen (a2), Frank Vitaro (a3), Nadine Forget-Dubois (a1), Bei Feng (a1), Richard E. Tremblay (a3) (a4) (a5) and Ginette Dionne (a1)...


Early disruptive behaviors, such as aggressive and hyperactive behaviors, known to be influenced by genetic factors, have been found to predict early school peer relation difficulties, such as peer rejection and victimization. However, there is no consensus regarding the developmental processes underlying this predictive association. Genetically informative designs, such as twin studies, are well suited for investigating the underlying genetic and environmental etiology of this association. The main goal of the present study was to examine the possible establishment of an emerging gene–environment correlation linking disruptive behaviors to peer relationship difficulties during the first years of school. Participants were drawn from an ongoing longitudinal study of twins who were assessed with respect to their social behaviors and their peer relation difficulties in kindergarten and in Grade 1 through peer nominations measures and teacher ratings. As predicted, disruptive behaviors were concurrently and predictively associated with peer relation difficulties. Multivariate analyses of these associations indicate that they were mainly accounted for by genetic factors. These results emphasize the need to adopt an early and persistent prevention framework targeting both the child and the peer context to alleviate the establishment of a negative coercive process and its consequences.


Corresponding author

Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Michel Boivin, École de Psychologie, Pavillon Félix-Antoine-Savard, 2325 rue des Bibliothèques, Université Laval, Québec, QC G1V 0A6, Canada; E-mail:


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