Relations between Reading Achievement and Antisocial Behavior in Young British Twins: Tests of Environmental and Genetic Hypotheses

Elevated rates of antisocial behavior have been found among children who are poor readers. However, it has not been clear whether antisocial behavior interferes with learning to read, whether poor reading skills raise risks for antisocial behavior, or whether these different kinds of problems are related in other ways.

Using a national longitudinal sample of British twins, Trzesniewski et al. (2006) tested associations between reading achievement at age 7 and antisocial behavior (measured in terms of CBCL and TRF Externalizing scores) at ages 5 and 7. Genetic factors were not found to explain the associations between poor reading achievement and antisocial behavior. Instead, among boys, the association between reading achievement and antisocial behavior was accounted for mainly by environmental risk factors that are common to both kinds of problems.

Several risk factors, such as low SES, unstimulating home environments, and child neglect were significant predictors of both poor reading achievement and antisocial behavior. Furthermore, tests of causal models revealed reciprocal relations between antisocial behavior and poor reading achievement, such that the presence of either one could raise the risk for the other. However, among girls, the associations were generally weaker and indicated that antisocial behavior was a risk factor for poor reading achievement but not vice versa. By contrast, associations between attention problems and poor reading achievement were accounted for mainly by genetic factors. 

Reference: Trzesniewski, K.H., Moffitt, T. E., Caspi, A., Taylor, A., & Maughan, B. (2006). Revisiting the association between reading achievement and antisocial behavior: New evidence of an environmental explanation from a twin study. Child Development, 77, 72-88.