Gene-Environment Correlation Linking Aggression and Peer Victimization: Do Classroom Behavioral Norms Matter?

Brendgen, Mara; Girard, Alain; Vitaro, Frank; Dionne, Ginette; Boivin, Michel
January 2015
Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology;Jan2015, Vol. 43 Issue 1, p19
Academic Journal
Using a genetically informed design based on 197 Monozygotic and Dizygotic twin pairs assessed in grade 4, this study examined 1) whether, in line with a gene-environment correlation (rGE), a genetic disposition for physical aggression or relational aggression puts children at risk of being victimized by their classmates, and 2) whether this rGE is moderated by classroom injunctive norm salience in regard to physical or relational aggression. Physical aggression and relational aggression, as well as injunctive classroom norm salience in regard to these behaviors, were measured via peer nominations. Peer victimization was measured via self-reports. Multi-Level Mixed modeling revealed that children with a genetic disposition for either aggressive behavior are at higher risk of being victimized by their peers only when classroom norms are unfavourable toward such behaviors. However, when classroom injunctive norms favor aggressive behaviors, a genetic disposition for physical or relational aggression may actually protect children against peer victimization. These results lend further support to the notion that bullying interventions must include the larger peer context instead of a sole focus on victims and bullies.


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