MAOA-uVNTR and early physical discipline interact to influence delinquent behavior.

Edwards, A. C., Dodge, K. A., Latendresse, S. J., Lansford, J. E., Bates, J. E., Pettit, G. S., Budde, J. P., Goate, A. M., & Dick, D. M. (2010). MAOA uVNTR and early physical discipline interact to influence delinquent behavior. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 51, 679-687.



A functional polymorphism in the promoter region of the monoamine oxidizing gene monoamine oxidase A (MAOA) has been associated with behavioral sensitivity to adverse environmental conditions in multiple studies (e.g., Caspi et al. 2002; Kim-Cohen et al., 2006). The present study investigates the effects of genotype and early physical discipline on externalizing behavior. We expand on the current literature in our assessment of externalizing, incorporating information across multiple reporters and over a broad developmental time period, and in our understanding of environmental risk. This study uses data from the Child Development Project, an ongoing longitudinal study following a community sample of children beginning at age 5. Physical discipline before age 6 was quantified using a subset of questions from the Conflict Tactics Scale (Straus, 1979). Externalizing behavior was assessed in the male, European-American sub-sample (N = 250) by parent, teacher, and self-report using Achenbach's Child Behavior Checklist, Teacher Report Form, and Youth Self-Report (Achenbach, 1991), at 17 time points from ages 6 to 22. Regression analyses tested the influence of genotype, physical discipline, and their interaction on externalizing behavior, and its subscales, delinquency and aggression. We found a significant interaction effect between genotype and physical discipline on levels of delinquent behavior. Similar trends were observed for aggression and overall externalizing behavior, although these did not reach statistical significance. Main effects of physical discipline held for all outcome variables, and no main effects held for genotype. The adverse consequences of physical discipline on forms of externalizing behavior are exacerbated by an underlying biological risk conferred by MAOA genotype.