The MAOA promoter polymorphism, disruptive behavior disorders, and early onset substance use disorder: gene-environment interaction

Psychiatr Genet. 2007 Dec;17(6):323-32. doi: 10.1097/YPG.0b013e32811f6691.


Objectives: Conduct, oppositional defiant, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorders, reflecting early antisociality and behavior dysregulation, are predictive of substance use disorders. Liabilities to these disorders share genetic and environmental variance. Parenting characteristics have been shown to influence development of antisociality, moderated by variation at the MAOA gene, which has also been associated with the risk for substance use disorders. To extend these findings, we tested the relationships between the MAOA promoter polymorphism (variable number tandem repeat), indices of child's perception of paternal and maternal parenting, and disruptive behavior disorders and substance use disorders.

Methods: A sample of 148 European-American males was assessed prospectively at ages from 10-12 to 18-19 years and genotyped for the monoamine oxidase A variable number tandem repeat. The Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorder-III-R diagnoses were obtained using standard methodology. Parenting was assessed using a scale summarizing the child's evaluation of the parenting style (parent's behavior toward him, parental emotional distance and involvement). Correlation, logistic regression, and Cox proportional hazard regression analysis was used to determine the relationships between the variables.

Results: The strength of association between parenting index and conduct and attention deficit hyperactivity disorders depended on the MAOA genotype. Unlike earlier findings, the parenting-risk relationships were observed in the 'high-' rather than 'low-activity' genotypes. The strength and direction of relationships depended on the parental sex. The MAOA polymorphism's association with the risk for substance use disorders was detected when parenting was controlled for.

Conclusions: The results are consistent with the contribution of the MAOA gene, parenting style and their interactions to variation in the risk for early onset behavior disorders and liability to substance use disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Emotions
  • Environment*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / enzymology
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology
  • Mental Disorders / genetics*
  • Monoamine Oxidase / genetics*
  • Nuclear Family
  • Parent-Child Relations
  • Polymorphism, Genetic*
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Risk Assessment
  • Substance-Related Disorders / enzymology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / genetics*
  • White People / genetics


  • Monoamine Oxidase