Young men with superior upper-body strength typically show a greater proclivity for physical aggression than their weaker male counterparts. The traditional interpretation of this phenomenon is that young men calibrate their attitudes and behaviors to their physical formidability. Physical strength is thus viewed as a causal antecedent of aggressive behavior. The present study is the first to examine this phenomenon within a developmental framework. We capitalized on the fact that physical strength is a male secondary sex characteristic. In two longitudinal cohorts of children, we estimated adolescent change in upper-body strength using the slope parameter from a latent growth model. We found that males’ antisocial tendencies temporally precede their physical formidability. Boys, but not girls, with greater antisocial tendencies in childhood attained larger increases in physical strength between the ages of 11 and 17. These results support sexual selection theory, indicating an adaptive congruence between male-typical behavioral dispositions and subsequent physical masculinization during puberty.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Research reported in this manuscript was supported by the following grants from the National Institutes of Health: DA 013240, DA 05147, and AA 09367.
© The Author(s) 2015
- adolescent development
- antisocial behavior
- physical strength