What is the environment’s role in personality development?

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Article Analysis


Tuvblad, C., Fanti, K., Andershed, H., Colins, O. &amp Larsson, H.(2016). Psychopathic personality traits in 5 year old twins: theimportance of genetic and shared environmental influences. EuropeanChild &amp Adolescent Psychiatry, 2016, pp 1–11, doi:10.1007/s00787-016-0899-1.


The article by Tuvblad et al. (2016) seeks to extend knowledge onthe role of environmental and genetic factors in personalitydevelopment. The majority of relevant studies relating topsychopathic traits have focused on adults or adolescents. This studyevaluated the significance of these aspects when young children areconsidered. It investigated how inherited characteristics and theenvironment influence psychopathic personality traits in 5 years oldpreschool twins in Sweden. It was established that both sharedenvironment and inherited factors have an influence on personalitydevelopment. The three most important aspects of the traits,“deceitful, callous–unemotional, and impulsive” were linked tothe two factors. This deviated from the result of research focusingon older subjects. Consequently, considering the stages ofdevelopment, which is dependent on age, in psychological models isessential since it is likely to alter the results (Tuvblad et al.,2016).

The author’s main claim

The main argument of the study is that both environmental and geneticfactors have an influence on the development of psychopathy and otherpersonality disorders. The study disputes the findings of otherstudies which have suggested inherited factors have predominantimpacts on the development of character. However, while this study isbased on twin children, other studies that have produced divergingfindings used adult or teenage twins as the subjects. Anotherimportant assertion by the author is the fact that etiological modelsand surveys should take into consideration the stages and processesof development to make accurate conclusions (Tuvblad et al., 2016).

Acknowledgments of other work on the subject

The author has adequately acknowledged other research studies andmeta-analyses. Several articles are cited which define and explainpsychopathy and other related personality processes and disorders.For example, it refers to studies that have evaluated the prevalenceof the condition in the population and its impact on the society,crime rates and delinquency. Additionally, the author describes indetails some of the recent twin studies that have focused on the samesubject, although they have used divergent methods of study. In theliterature review, several studies that focused on adults andadolescents are acknowledged and evaluated. This includes theevaluation tools employed and the findings of the research. However,the study established that there are limited studies that havefocused on the role of environmental and inherited factors in thedevelopment of psychopathic personalities in children (Tuvblad etal., 2016).

Counter argument in opposition to the author’s claims

Several studies have given an argument in opposition to the authors`claim. Researchers who have concentrated on adult and teen twins haveargued that while the influence of the environment is moderate, thegenetic factors have a dominant influence. The contrast is attributedto the choice of the subjects and the methods of evaluation. Forexample, due to their age and level of exposure to differentenvironmental factors, the role of genetic in personality developmentis overshadowed (Tuvblad et al., 2016, Skeem el al., 2011).

Methods of collecting evidence, its strengths and weaknesses

The primary method of data collection used by in the study wasquestionnaires sent to teachers and parents of the identified twins.However, only the questionnaires from the teachers were used in theinvestigation. The surveys were based on the “Child ProblematicTraits Inventory” as the primary measure. The teachers wererequired to rate the children based on their usual behaviors ratherthan acts at a particular moment (Tuvblad et al., 2016).

Questionnaires were the main method used in the study. There areseveral strengths and weaknesses of using questionnaires as theprincipal method of data collection. The questionnaires can be mailedto a large number of subjects within a short time and limited budget,in addition to covering a broad geographical area. It is alsopossible to structure or code the responses to meet the needs of thestudy, as well as select a representative sample. The method wasappropriate in this research because it gave the respondent adequatetime to consider the questions and give the most suitable response.Moreover, the results of the study are replicable and can be used inother projects. It also ensures that it is possible to compare thefindings with other related inquiries. The main weakness associatedwith this method is the low rate of response. The majority of thesubjects are likely to ignore the mailed correspondences. Otherchallenges include misinterpretation and different contexts which areliable to result in wrong conclusions (Saris, 2014).

Sampling and sample size

Sampling was mainly based on the age of the twins, where all thechildren within a particular blanket were selected. This wasappropriate when the research question was considered. The studyfocused on the PETSS (“Preschool Twin Study in Sweden”) projectwhich provided the source of the data. In general, the project aimedat examining the inherited and environmental influence in cognitive,emotional and behavior development among children. The twins wereidentified through the official birth register and parents contactedbefore the fifth birthday. A total of 2522 children (1261 twin pairs)were involved in the study. A total of 828 mothers and 698 fathersresponded to the questionnaires mailed to them, while teachers of 686twin pairs participated. The study was based on the responses of theteachers, where 1189 children were evaluated (Tuvblad et al., 2016).


Saris, W. (2014). Design, evaluation, and analysis ofquestionnaires for survey research. Hoboken: Wiley.

Skeem, J. L. et al. (2011). Psychopathic Personality: Bridging theGap between Scientific Evidence and Public Policy. PsychologicalScience in the Public Interest. 12 (3): 95–162.

Tuvblad, C., Fanti, K., Andershed, H., Colins, O. &amp Larsson, H.(2016). Psychopathic personality traits in 5 year old twins: theimportance of genetic and shared environmental influences. EuropeanChild &amp Adolescent Psychiatry, 2016, pp 1–11, doi:10.1007/s00787-016-0899-1.

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