Higher aggression is related to poorer academic performance in compulsory education

Eero Vuoksimaa*, Richard J. Rose, Lea Pulkkinen, Teemu Palviainen, Kaili Rimfeld, Sebastian Lundström, Meike Bartels, Catharina van Beijsterveldt, Anne Hendriks, Eveline L. de Zeeuw, Robert Plomin, Paul Lichtenstein, Dorret I. Boomsma, Jaakko Kaprio

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Background: To conduct a comprehensive assessment of the association between aggression and academic performance in compulsory education. Method: We studied aggression and academic performance in over 27,000 individuals from four European twin cohorts participating in the ACTION consortium (Aggression in Children: Unraveling gene-environment interplay to inform Treatment and InterventiON strategies). Individual level data on aggression at ages 7–16 were assessed by three instruments (Achenbach System of Empirically Based Assessment, Multidimensional Peer Nomination Inventory, Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire) including parental, teacher and self-reports. Academic performance was measured with teacher-rated grade point averages (ages 12–14) or standardized test scores (ages 12–16). Random effect meta-analytical correlations with academic performance were estimated for parental ratings (in all four cohorts) and self-ratings (in three cohorts). Results: All between-family analyses indicated significant negative aggression–academic performance associations with correlations ranging from −.06 to −.33. Results were similar across different ages, instruments and raters and either with teacher-rated grade point averages or standardized test scores as measures of academic performance. Meta-analytical r’s were −.20 and −.23 for parental and self-ratings, respectively. In within-family analyses of all twin pairs, the negative aggression–academic performance associations were statistically significant in 14 out of 17 analyses (r = −.17 for parental- and r = −.16 for self-ratings). Separate analyses in monozygotic (r = −.07 for parental and self-ratings), same-sex dizygotic (r’s = −.16 and −.17 for parental and self-ratings) and opposite-sex dizygotic (r’s = −.21 and −.19 for parental and self-ratings) twin pairs suggested partial confounding by genetic effects. Conclusions: There is a robust negative association between aggression and academic performance in compulsory education. Part of these associations were explained by shared genetic effects, but some evidence of a negative association between aggression and academic performance remained even in within-family analyses of monozygotic twin pairs.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines
DOIs
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 1 Jan 2020

Keywords

  • Aggression
  • cognition
  • development
  • educational attainment
  • school performance

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