The effect of 5-HTT gene promoter polymorphism on impulsivity depends on family relations in girls

Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2008 Jul 1;32(5):1263-8. doi: 10.1016/j.pnpbp.2008.03.021. Epub 2008 Apr 4.


The short (S) allele of the 5-HTT gene promoter region polymorphism (5-HTTLPR), in combination with adverse environmental influence, leads to higher likelihood of depression. Impulsivity has been related to low serotonin turnover, poor regulation of affect, and problems in the family, including child maltreatment. The current study explored the effect of the 5-HTTLPR polymorphism in the serotonin transporter gene and adverse family environment on impulsivity in adolescents. Healthy adolescents participating in the Estonian Children Personality Behaviour and Health Study (n=483) filled the Adaptive and Maladaptive Impulsivity Scale (AMIS), Barratt Impulsiveness Scale (BIS-11), a scale measuring family relations, and were genotyped. While genotype alone was not associated with thoughtlessness, BIS-11 impulsiveness, fast decision-making or excitement seeking, 5-HTTLPR S allele carriers, however, had higher scores of disinhibition. In girls carrying the S allele, scores of thoughtlessness and disinhibition depended on family relations, being higher with less warmth in the family. Adverse family relations had no effect on impulsivity in girls with LL genotype. In boys, the effects of family relations on maladaptive impulsivity did not depend on genotype. However, the S allele and high maltreatment in the family both independently increased disinhibition and the BIS-11 score in boys. Family environment and the 5-HTTLPR genotype had no interactive effect on excitement seeking or fast decision-making. In summary, carrying the S allele may lead to high maladaptive impulsivity due to higher sensitivity to environmental adversity, which is more significantly expressed in girls.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Cohort Studies
  • Family Relations*
  • Female
  • Gene Frequency
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Impulsive Behavior / genetics*
  • Male
  • Polymorphism, Genetic / genetics*
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic / genetics*
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Psychological Tests
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Serotonin Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins / genetics*
  • Sex Characteristics*


  • Serotonin Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins