Background: Recent studies have examined gene×environment (G×E) interactions involving the monoamine oxidase A (MAOA) gene in moderating the associations between exposure to adversity and antisocial behaviour. The present study examined a novel method for assessing interactions between a single gene and multiple risk factors related to environmental and personal adversity.
Aims: To test the hypothesis that the presence of the low-activity MAOA genotype was associated with an increased response to a series of risk factors.
Method: Participants were 399 males from the Christchurch Health and Development Study who had complete data on: (a) MAOA promoter region variable number tandem repeat genotype; (b) antisocial behaviour (criminal offending) to age 30 and convictions to age 21; and (c) maternal smoking during pregnancy, IQ, childhood maltreatment and school failure.
Results: Poisson regression models were fitted to three antisocial behaviour outcomes (property/violent offending ages 15-30; and convictions ages 17-21), using measures of exposure to adverse childhood circumstances. The analyses revealed consistent evidence of G x E interactions, such that those with the low-activity MAOA variant who were exposed to adversity in childhood were significantly more likely to report offending in late adolescence and early adulthood.
Conclusions: The present findings add to the evidence suggesting that there is a stable G x E interaction involving MAOA, a range of adverse environmental and personal factors, and antisocial behaviour across the life course. These analyses also demonstrate the utility of using multiple environmental/personal exposures to test G×E interactions.