Behavior Genetics

, Volume 48, Issue 6, pp 421–431 | Cite as

Age-Related Differences in the Structure of Genetic and Environmental Contributions to Types of Peer Victimization

  • Meridith L. EastmanEmail author
  • Brad Verhulst
  • Lance M. Rappaport
  • Melanie Dirks
  • Chelsea Sawyers
  • Daniel S. Pine
  • Ellen Leibenluft
  • Melissa A. Brotman
  • John M. Hettema
  • Roxann Roberson-Nay
Original Research


The goal of the present investigation was to clarify and compare the structure of genetic and environmental influences on different types (e.g., physical, verbal) of peer victimization experienced by youth in pre-/early adolescence and mid-/late adolescence. Physical, verbal, social, and property-related peer victimization experiences were assessed in two twin samples (306 pairs, ages 9–14 and 294 pairs, ages 15–20). Cholesky decompositions of individual differences in victimization were conducted, and independent pathway (IP) and common pathway (CP) twin models were tested in each sample. In the younger sample, a Cholesky decomposition best described the structure of genetic and environmental contributors to peer victimization, with no evidence that common additive genetic or environmental factors influence different types of peer victimization. In the older sample, common environmental factors influenced peer victimization types via a general latent liability for peer victimization (i.e., a CP model). Whereas the pre-/early adolescent sample demonstrated no evidence of a shared genetic and environmental structure for different types of peer victimization, the mid-/late adolescent sample demonstrates the emergence of an environmentally-driven latent liability for peer victimization across peer victimization types.


Peer victimization Common pathway Behavior genetics Genetics Environment 



Independent pathway


Common pathway



This project was supported by National Institute of Mental Health Grants T32MH020030 (M.L.E. and L.M.R.), R01MH098055 (J.M.H.), R01MH101518 (R.R.-N.), IMH-IRP-ziamh002781 (D.S.P.), and UL1TR000058 from the National Center for Research Resources (for REDCap). We are grateful for the contributions of the twins and their families who participated in the studies providing data for this article and for assistance with study coordination from Jennifer Cecilione and Laura Hazlett. Additionally, we thank Robert Kirkpatrick for assistance with statistical modeling and Jessica Bourdon for translational considerations.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

Meridith L. Eastman, Brad Verhulst, Lance M. Rappaport, Melanie Dirks, Chelsea Sawyers, Daniel S. Pine, Ellen Leibenluft, Melissa A. Brotman, John M. Hettema, and Roxann Roberson-Nay declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All study materials and procedures were approved by the VCU Institutional Review Board.

Informed consent

Written informed consent was obtained from adults (parents or guardians of minor children and participants 18 years of age or older) and assent was obtained from minor children whose parents or guardians provided written consent.

Human and Animal Rights

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Meridith L. Eastman
    • 1
    Email author
  • Brad Verhulst
    • 2
  • Lance M. Rappaport
    • 1
  • Melanie Dirks
    • 3
  • Chelsea Sawyers
    • 1
  • Daniel S. Pine
    • 3
  • Ellen Leibenluft
    • 4
  • Melissa A. Brotman
    • 4
  • John M. Hettema
    • 1
  • Roxann Roberson-Nay
    • 1
  1. 1.Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral GeneticsVirginia Commonwealth UniversityRichmondUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada
  4. 4.Emotion and Development Branch, Department of Health and Human Services, National Institute of Mental HealthNational Institutes of HealthBethesdaUSA

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