Etiology and Measurement of Relational Aggression: A Multi-Informant Behavior Genetic Investigation

Jennifer L. Tackett*, Irwin D. Waldman, Benjamin B. Lahey

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Although the study of relational aggression is gaining attention in the literature, little is known about the underlying causes of this behavior and the relative validity of various informants. These issues were addressed in a sample of 1,981 6- to 18-year-old twin pairs (36% female, 34% male, 30% opposite-sex). Relational aggression was assessed via maternal and self-report using a structured interview. Univariate models estimated genetic and environmental influences by informant and examined evidence for gender differences. A psychometric model combined data from both informants to estimate etiologic influences that were both common to the informants and informant specific. In both sexes, the latent variable reflecting the mother's and child's shared perception of the child's relational aggression was substantially influenced by both additive genetic (63%) and shared environmental (37%) influences, although this latent variable accounted for much greater variance in the maternal report (66%) than it did in the youth report (9%). In addition, informant-specific additive genetic and shared environmental influences were found only for the youth report, with all remaining variance in the mother's report attributed to nonshared environmental influences. Results are discussed in the context of measuring relational aggression and the importance of multiple informants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)722-733
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of abnormal psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 2009


  • behavior genetics
  • externalizing behavior
  • psychometric model
  • relational aggression
  • twin studies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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