Association of serotonin transporter promoter gene polymorphism with violence: relation with personality disorders, impulsivity, and childhood ADHD psychopathology

Behav Sci Law. 2004;22(3):415-25. doi: 10.1002/bsl.589.


There is evidence that disturbances in central serotonin (5-HT) function have a role in impulsive aggression, violence, and criminality. A deletion/insertion polymorphism within the 5-HT transporter (5-HTT) promoter gene (5-HTT gene-linked polymorphic region, 5-HTTLPR) is thought to be associated with several psychopathological phenotypes related to disturbed impulse control, anxiety and depression. This study examined the association of the 5-HTTLPR with violent behavior in a sample of 153 male Caucasians referred for a forensic psychiatric examination. We found a significant excess of the short (s) allele and the s/s genotype in patients characterized by recurrent and overt physical violent behavior. This genetic variance explained 5% of the variance of violent behavior. When controlled for the impact of several psychopathologies related to violent behavior, this association was observed in individuals with a history of childhood attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)-related symptoms, but not presenting with personality disorder or increased impulsiveness. In conclusion, the results (i). suggest an association between serotonergic dysfunction and violent behavior, (ii). provide evidence for an-at least partial-genetic regulation of violent behavior in a subgroup of male offenders, and (iii). suggest a significant role for 5-HT transporter functionality for violent behavior.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / genetics*
  • Base Sequence
  • Carrier Proteins / genetics*
  • Child
  • DNA Primers
  • Germany
  • Humans
  • Impulsive Behavior / genetics*
  • Male
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / genetics*
  • Membrane Transport Proteins*
  • Middle Aged
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / genetics*
  • Personality Disorders* / genetics*
  • Polymorphism, Genetic*
  • Psychopathology
  • Serotonin Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins
  • Violence / statistics & numerical data*


  • Carrier Proteins
  • DNA Primers
  • Membrane Glycoproteins
  • Membrane Transport Proteins
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • SLC6A4 protein, human
  • Serotonin Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins