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Journal Article


Toepfer P, O Donnell KJ, Entringer S, Heim CM, Lin DTS, MacIsaac JL, Kobor MS, Meaney MJ, Provençal N, Binder EB, Wadhwa PD, Buss C. J. Am. Acad. Child Adolesc. Psychiatry 2019; ePub(ePub): ePub.


Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin, corporate member of Freie Universität Berlin, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, and Berlin Institute of Health (BIH), Institute of Medical Psychology, Berlin, Germany; Development, Health, and Disease Research Program, University of California, Irvine. Electronic address:


(Copyright © 2019, American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry, Publisher Lippincott Williams and Wilkins)






OBJECTIVE: Women exposed to childhood maltreatment (CM) are more likely to exhibit insensitive parenting, which may have consequences for their offspring´s development. Variation in the Oxytocin-receptor gene (OXTR) moderates risk of CM-associated long-term sequelae associated with mother-child attachment, although functionality of previously investigated SNPs remained elusive. Here, we investigated the role of OXTR rs237895, a brain tissue expression quantitative trait locus (eQTL), as a moderator of the relationship between CM and maternal behavior (MB) and the association between MB and offspring attachment security.

METHOD: Of 110 women with information on rs237895 genotype (T-allele=64, CC=46), n=107 have information on CM (CTQ) and n=99 on standardized observer-based ratings of MB at 6 months postpartum (responsivity and detachment), which were used in principal components analysis to obtain a latent factor representing MB. Offspring (n=86) attachment was evaluated at 12 months age. Analyses predicting MB were adjusted for socioeconomic status (SES), age, postpartum depression (PPD), and genotype-based ethnicity. Analyses predicting child attachment were adjusted for infant sex, SES, and PPD.

RESULTS: rs237895 significantly moderates the relationship between CM and MB (F1;66=7.99, p<.01), indicating that CM was associated with maternal insensitivity only in high OXTR-expressing T-allele carriers but not in low OXTR-expressing CC homozygotes. Moreover, maternal insensitivity predicted offspring insecure attachment (B= -.551; p<.05).

CONCLUSION: Women with a high OXTR expressing genotype are more susceptible to CM-related impairments in MB that, in turn, predicts attachment security in their children, supporting the role of the OT-system in the intergenerational transmission of risk associated with maternal CM.

Copyright © 2019. Published by Elsevier Inc.

Language: en


childhood maltreatment; cxytocin receptor gene; gene-environment interaction; intergenerational transmission; parenting


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