Human maternal behaviour is associated with arginine vasopressin receptor 1A gene

Biol Lett. 2012 Oct 23;8(5):894-6. doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2012.0492. Epub 2012 Jul 4.


Parenting is one of the main influences on children's early development, and yet its underlying genetic mechanisms have only recently begun to be explored, with many studies neglecting to control for possible child effects. This study focuses on maternal behaviour and on an allele at the RS3 promoter region of the arginine vasopressin receptor 1A (AVPR1A) gene, previously associated with autism and with higher amygdala activation in a face-matching task. Mothers were observed during a free-play session with each of their 3.5-year-old twins. Multilevel regression analyses revealed that mothers who are carriers of the AVPR1A RS3 allele tend to show less structuring and support throughout the interaction independent of the child's sex and RS3 genotype. This finding advances our understanding of the genetic influences on human maternal behaviour.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Twin Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alleles
  • Behavior
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Maternal Behavior / physiology*
  • Models, Genetic
  • Mother-Child Relations
  • Parenting
  • Play and Playthings
  • Receptors, Vasopressin / genetics*
  • Receptors, Vasopressin / physiology*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA


  • Receptors, Vasopressin