The well-documented finding that child physical maltreatment predicts later antisocial behavior has at least 2 explanations: (a) Physical maltreatment causes antisocial behavior, and (b) genetic factors transmitted from parents to children influence the likelihood that parents will be abusive and that children will engage in antisocial behavior. The authors tested these hypotheses in the representative Environmental-Risk cohort of 1,116 twin pairs and their families, who were assessed when the twins were 5 and 7 years old. Mothers reported on children's experience of physical maltreatment, and mothers and teachers reported on children's antisocial behavior. The findings support the hypothesis that physical maltreatment plays a causal role in the development of children's antisocial behavior and that preventing maltreatment can prevent its violent sequelae.
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