Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home

Gene–environment interaction between peer victimization and child aggression

  • Mara Brendgen (a1), Michel Boivin (a2), Frank Vitaro (a3), Alain Girard (a3), Ginette Dionne (a2) and Daniel Pérusse (a3)...

Abstract

Although peer victimization places children at serious risk for aggressive behavior, not all victimized children are aggressive. The diathesis–stress hypothesis of disease proposes that an environmental stressor such as peer victimization should to lead to maladjustment mostly in those individuals with preexisting genetic vulnerabilities. Accordingly, this study examined whether the link between peer victimization and child aggression is moderated by children's genetic risk for such behavior. Using a sample of 506 6-year-old twins, peer victimization was assessed through peer nominations and aggressive behavior was assessed through peer and teacher reports. Children's genetic risk for aggression was estimated as a function of their co-twin's aggression and the pair's zygosity. Genetic modeling showed that peer victimization is an environmentally driven variable that is unrelated to children's genetic disposition. Results also provided support for the notion of a gene–environment interaction between peer victimization and child's genetic risk for aggressive behavior, albeit only in girls. For boys, peer victimization was related to aggression regardless of the child's genetic risk for such behavior. Different socialization experiences in girls' compared to boys' peer groups may explain the different pattern of results for girls and boys.

Copyright

Corresponding author

Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Mara Brendgen, Department of Psychology, University of Quebec at Montreal, CP 8888, Succ. Centreville, Montréal, Québec H3C 3P8, Canada; E-mail: Brendgen.Mara@uqam.ca.

Footnotes

Hide All

This research was made possible by grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Fonds Concerté pour l'Aide à la Recherche, the Fonds Québécois de la Recherche sur la Société et la Culture, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and the Fonds de Recherche en Santé du Québec. We thank the participating families, and the authorities and directors as well as the teachers of the participating schools. We also thank Bernadette Simoneau, Jacqueline Langlois, and Hélène Paradis for their assistance in data management and preparation, and Jocelyn Malo for coordinating the data collection.

Footnotes

References

Hide All
Alsaker, F., & Brunner, A. (1999). Switzerland. In Smith, P. K., Morita, Y., Junger-Tas, J., Olweus, D., Catalano, R., & Slee, P. (Eds.), The nature of school bullying: A cross-national perspective. New York: Routledge.
Andrieu, N., & Goldstein, A. M. (1998). Epidemiologic and genetic approaches in the study of gene–environment interaction: An overview of available methods. Epidemiologic Reviews, 20, 137147.
Behar, L., & Stringfield, S. (1974). A behavior rating scale for the preschool child. Developmental Psychology, 10, 601610.
Boulton, M. J., & Underwood, K. (1992). Bully/victim problems among middle school children. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 62, 7387.
Brendgen, M., Dionne, G., Girard, A., Boivin, M., Vitaro, F., & Pérusse, D. (2005). Examining genetic and environmental effects on social aggression: A study of 6-year-old twins. Child Development, 76, 930946.
Brendgen, M., Markiewicz, D., Doyle, A. B., & Bukowski, W. M. (2001). The relations between friendship quality, ranked-friendship preference, and adolescents' behavior with their friends. Merrill–Palmer Quarterly, 47, 395415.
Brendgen, M., Vitaro, F., Boivin, M., Dionne, G., & Pérusse, D. (2006). Genetic and environmental effects on reactive versus proactive aggression. Developmental Psychology, 42, 12991312.
Cadoret, R. J., Leve, L. D., & Devor, E. (1997). Genetics of aggressive and violent behavior. Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 20, 301322.
Camodeca, M., Goossens, F. A., Meerum Terwogt, M., & Schuengel, C. (2002). Bullying and victimization among school-age children: Stability and links to proactive and reactive aggression. Social Development, 11, 332345.
Crick, N. R., Casas, J. F., & Mosher, M. (1997). Relational and overt aggression in preschool. Developmental Psychology, 33, 579588.
Craig, W., Wang, T., Goldbaum, S., Peters, R., & Silverman, R. (2000). Understanding risk and protective factors in bullying and victimization among Canadian children and adolescents. Ottawa, Canada: Applied Research Branch, Strategic Policy, Human Resources Development Canada.
Craig, W. M. (1998). The relationship among bullying, victimization, depression, anxiety, and aggression in elementary school children. Personality and Individual Differences, 24, 123130.
Crick, N. R., & Zahn-Waxler, C. (2003). The development of psychopathology in females and males: Current progress and future challenges. Development and Psychopathology, 15, 719742.
Denton, K., & Zarbatany, L. (1996). Age differences in support processes in conversations between friends. Child Development, 67, 13601373.
DiLalla, L. F. (2002). Behavior genetics of aggression in children: Review and future directions. Developmental Review, 22, 593622.
Falconer, D. S. (1989). Introduction to quantitative genetics. Essex: Longman Scientific and Technical.
Fekkes, M., Pijpers, F. I. M., & Verloove-Vanhorick, S. P. (2005). Bullying: Who does what, when and where? Involvement of children, teachers and parents in bullying behavior. Health Education Research, 20, 8191.
Finnegan, R. A., Hodges, E. V. E., & Perry, D. G. (1998). Victimization by peers: Associations with children's reports of mother–child interaction. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75, 10761086.
Forget-Dubois, N., Perusse, D., Turecki, G., Girard, A., Billette, J. M., Rouleau, G., et al. (2003). Diagnosing zygosity in infant twins: Parent report, DNA analysis, and chorionicity. Twin Research, 6, 479485.
Genta, M. L., Mensini, E., Fonzi, A., & Constabile, A. (1996). Bullies and victims in schools in central and southern Italy. European Journal of Psychology of Education, 11, 97110.
Goldsmith, H. H. (1991). A zygosity questionnaire for young twins: A research note. Behavior Genetics, 21, 257269.
Goldstein, S. E., Tisak, M. S., & Boxer, P. (2002). Preschoolers' normative and prescriptive judgments about relational and overt aggression. Early Education and Development, 13, 2339.
Grills, A. E., & Ollendick, T. H. (2002). Peer victimization, global self-worth, and anxiety in middle school children. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 31, 5968.
Hanish, L. D., & Guerra, N. G. (2002). A longitudinal analysis of patterns of adjustment following peer victimization. Development and Psychopathology, 14, 6989.
Happonen, M., Pulkkinen, L., Kaprio, J., Van der Meere, J., Viken, R. J., & Rose, R. J. (2002). The heritability of depressive symptoms: Multiple informants and multiple measures. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines, 43, 471480.
Hodges, E. V., Boivin, M., Vitaro, F., & Bukowski, W. M. (1999). The power of friendship: Protection against an escalating cycle of peer victimization. Developmental Psychology, 35, 94101.
Hodges, E. V. E., Malone, M. J., & Perry, D. G. (1997). Individual risk and social risk as interacting determinants of victimization in the peer group. Developmental Psychology, 33, 10321039.
Jaffee, S. R., Caspi, A., Moffitt, T. E., Dodge, K. A., Rutter, M., Taylor, A., et al. (2005). Nature × nurture: Genetic vulnerabilities interact with physical maltreatment to promote conduct problems. Development and Psychopathology, 17, 6784.
Jaffee, S. R., Caspi, A., Moffitt, T. E., Polo-Tomas, M., Price, T. S., & Taylor, A. (2004). The limits of child effects: Evidence for genetically mediated child effects on corporal punishment but not on physical maltreatment. Developmental Psychology, 40, 10471058.
Juvonen, J., Nishina, A., & Graham, S. (2001). Self-views versus peer perceptions of victim status among early adolescents. In Juvonen, J. & Graham, S. (Eds.), Peer harassment in school: The plight of the vulnerable and victimized (pp. 105124). New York: Guilford Press.
Kendler, K. S., & Eaves, L. J. (1986). Models for the joint effect of genotype and environment on liability to psychiatric illness. The American Journal of Psychiatry, 143, 279289.
Kendler, K. S., Kessler, R. C., Walters, E. E., & MacLean, C. (1995). Stressful life events, genetic liability, and onset of an episode of major depression in women. The American Journal of Psychiatry, 152, 833842.
Kochenderfer, B. J., & Ladd, G. W. (1997). Victimized children's responses to peers' aggression: Behaviors associated with reduced versus continued victimization. Development and Psychopathology, 9, 5973.
Maccoby, E. E., & Jacklin, C. N. (1980). Sex differences in aggression: A rejoinder and reprise. Child Development, 51, 964980.
Miles, D. R., & Carey, G. (1997). Genetic and environmental architecture of human aggression. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 72, 207217.
Monroe, S. M., & Simons, A. D. (1991). Diathesis–stress theories in the context of life stress research: Implications for depressive disorders. Psychological Bulletin, 110, 406425.
Morita, Y., Soeda, H., Soeada, K., & Taki, M. (1999). Japan. In Smith, P. K., Morita, Y., Junger-Tas, J., Olweus, D., Catalano, R., & Slee, P. (Eds.), The nature of school bullying: A cross-national perspective. New York: Routledge.
Muthén, L. K., & Muthén, B. O. (1998–2004). Mplus user's guide (3rd ed.). Los Angeles: Author.
Nansel, T., Overpeck, M., Pilla, R., Ruan, W., Simons-Morton, B., & Scheidt, P. (2001). Bullying Behaviors among US youth: Prevalence and association with psychosocial adjustment. Journal of the American Medical Association, 285, 20942100.
Neale, M. C., & Cardon, L. R. (1992). Methodology for genetic studies of twins and families. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic.
Newman, R. S., & Murray, B. J. (2005). How students and teachers view the seriousness of peer harassment: When is it appropriate to seek help? Journal of Educational Psychology, 97, 347365.
O'Connell, P., Pepler, D., & Craig, W. (1999). Peer involvement in bullying: Insights and challenges for intervention. Journal of Adolescence, 22, 437452.
O'Moore, A. M., & Hillery, B. (1989). Bullying in Dublin schools. Irish Journal of Psychology, 10, 426441.
Olweus, D. (1992). Victimization among schoolchildren: Intervention and prevention. In Albee, G. W., Bond, L. A., & Monsey, T. V. C. (Eds.), Improving children's lives: Global perspectives on prevention. Primary prevention of psychopathology (pp. 279295). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Olweus, D. (1993). Bullying at school: What we know and what we can do. Malden, MA: Blackwell.
Ortega, R., & Mora-Merchan, J. (1999). Spain. In Smith, P. I., Morita, Y., Junger-Tas, J., Olweus, D., Catalano, R., & Slee, P. (Eds.), The nature of school bullying: A cross-national perspective. New York: Routledge.
Ottman, R. (1994). Epidemiologic analysis of gene–environment interaction in twins. Genetic Epidemiology, 11, 7586.
Perry, D. G., Kusel, S. J., & Perry, L. C. (1988). Victims of peer aggression. Developmental Psychology, 24, 807814.
Phillipsen, L. C. L. (1999). Associations between age, gender, and group acceptance and three components of friendship quality. The Journal of Early Adolescence, 19, 438464.
Rhee, S., & Waldman, I. D. (2002). Genetic and environmental influences on antisocial behavior: A meta-analysis of twin and adoption studies. Psychological Bulletin, 29, 490529.
Rice, F., Harold, G., & Thapar, A. (2002). The genetic aetiology of childhood depression: A review. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 43, 6579.
Rigby, K. (1998). The relationship between reported health and involvement in bully/victim problems among male and female secondary schoolchildren. Journal of Health Psychology, 3, 465476.
Rigby, K., & Slee, P. T. (1991). Bullying among Australian school children: Reported behavior and attitudes toward victims. Journal of Social Psychology, 131, 615627.
Rutter, M., & Silberg, J. (2002). Gene–environment interplay in relation to emotional and behavioral disturbance. Annual Review of Psychology, 53, 463490.
Salmivalli, C., Kaukiainen, A., & Voeten, M. (2005). Anti-bullying intervention: Implementation and outcome. The British Journal of Educational Psychology, 75, 465487.
Salmivalli, C., & Nieminen, E. (2002). Proactive and reactive aggression among school bullies, victims, and bully-victims. Aggressive Behavior, 28, 3044.
Samaras, K., Kelly, P. J., Chiano, M. N., Spector, T. D., & Campbell, L. V. (1999). Genetic and environmental influences on total-body and central abdominal fat: The effect of physical activity in female twins. Annuals of Internal Medicine, 130, 873882.
SantéQuébec, Jetté, M., Desrosiers, H., & Tremblay, R. E. (1998). “In 2001 … I'll be 5 years old!” Survey of 5-month old infants. Preliminary report of the Longitudinal Study of Child Development in Québec. Quebec: Bibliothèque Nationale du Québec.
Schwartz, D., Dodge, K. A., Pettit, G. S., & Bates, J. E. (1997). The early socialization of aggressive victims of bullying. Child Development, 68, 665675.
Schwartz, D., Dodge, K. A., Pettit, G. S., & Bates, J. E. (2000). Friendship as a moderating factor in the pathway between early harsh home environment and later victimization in the peer group. Developmental Psychology, 36, 646662.
Schwartz, D., McFadyen-Ketchum, S. A., Dodge, K. A., Pettit, G. S., & Bates, J. E. (1998). Peer group victimization as a predictor of children's behavior problems at home and in school. Development and Psychopathology, 10, 8799.
Smith, P. K., Madsen, K. C., & Moody, J. C. (1999). What causes the age decline in reports of being bullied at school? Towards a developmental analysis of risks of being bullied. Educational Research, 41, 267285.
Tabachnik, B. G., & Fidell, L. S. (2001). Using multivariate statistics (4th ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
Thapar, A., & McGuffin, P. (1995). Are anxiety symptoms in childhood heritable? Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines, 36, 439447.
Troop-Gordon, W., & Ladd, G. W. (2005). Trajectories of peer victimization and perceptions of the self and schoolmates: Precursors to internalizing and externalizing problems. Child Development 76, 10721091.
Vallerand, R. J. (1989). Vers une methodologie de validation trans-culturelle de questionnaires psychologiques: Implications pour la recherche en langue francaise [Toward a methodology for the transcultural validation of psychological questionnaires: Implications for research in the French language]. Canadian Psychology, 30, 662680.
van der Valk, J. C., van den Oord, E. J. C. G., Verhulst, F. C., & Boomsma, D. I. (2003). Genetic and environmental contributions to stability and change in children's internalizing and externalizing problems. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 42, 12121220.
Vettenburg, N. (1999). Belgium. In Smith, P. K., Morita, Y., Junger-Tas, J., Olweus, D., Catalano, R., & Slee, P. (Eds.), The nature of school bullying: A cross-national perspective. New York: Routledge.
Vitaro, F., Gagnon, C., & Tremblay, R. E. (1990). Predicting stable peer rejection from kindergarten to grade one. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, 19, 257264.
Vitaro, F., Tremblay, R. E., & Gagnon, C. (1990). Profil comportemental et stabilité du statut sociométrique de la maternelle à la première année [Behavioral profile and stability of sociometric status from kindergarten to 1st grade]. Enfance, 45, 423438.
Vitaro, F., Tremblay, R. E., Gagnon, C., & Boivin, M. (1992). Peer rejection from kindergarten to Grade 2: Outcomes, correlates, and prediction. Merrill–Palmer Quarterly 38, 382400.
Vitaro, F., Tremblay, R. E., Kerr, M., Pagani, L., & Bukowski, W. M. (1997). Disruptiveness, friends' characteristics, and delinquency in early adolescence: A test of two competing models of development. Child Development, 68, 676689.
Wolke, D., Woods, S., Stanford, K., & Schulz, H. (2001). Bullying and victimization of primary school children in England and Germany: Prevalence and school factors. British Journal of Psychology, 92, 673696.
Zuckerman, M. (1999). Vulnerability to psychopathology: A biosocial model. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Metrics

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed