Personality and peer groups in adolescence: Reciprocal associations and shared genetic and environmental influences

D. Angus Clark, C. Emily Durbin, Mary M. Heitzeg, William G. Iacono, Matt McGue, Brian M. Hicks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Objective: Peer groups represent a critical developmental context in adolescence, and there are many well-documented associations between personality and peer behavior at this age. However, the precise nature and direction of these associations are difficult to determine as youth both select into, and are influenced by, their peers. Method: We thus examined the phenotypic, genetic, and environmental links between antisocial and prosocial peer characteristics and several personality traits from middle childhood to late adolescence (ages 11, 14, and 17 years) in a longitudinal twin sample (N = 3762) using teacher ratings of personality and self-reports of peer characteristics. Results: Less adaptive trait profiles (i.e., high negative emotionality, low conscientiousness, and low agreeableness) were associated with more antisocial and fewer prosocial peer characteristics across time. Associations between personality traits related to emotionality (negative emotionality and extraversion) and peer behavior were largely attributable to shared genetic influences, while associations between personality traits related to behavioral control (conscientiousness and agreeableness) and peer behavior were due to overlapping genetic and shared environmental influences. Conclusions: Overall, results suggest a set of environmental presses that push youth toward both behavioral undercontrol and antisocial peer affiliations, making the identification of such influences and their relative importance a critical avenue of future work.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)464-481
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of personality
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the United States Public Health Service grants R01 AA09367 (McGue), R01 AA024433 (Hicks), and T32 AA007477 (Blow) from the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and R37 DA005147 (Iacono), R01 DA013240 (Iacono), and R01 DA039112 (Durbin) from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors. Journal of Personality published by Wiley Periodicals LLC.


  • adolescence
  • behavior genetics
  • heritability
  • peer behavior
  • personality
  • shared environmental influences

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural


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