Fears in the General Population: More Frequent in Females and Associated With the Serotonin Transporter Promoter Polymorphism and Perceived Relationship With Mothers

J Child Neurol. 2015 Oct;30(11):1459-65. doi: 10.1177/0883073815570151. Epub 2015 Feb 16.


This study aimed to examine the structure of fears of youth, and its associations with gender, genetic variation of the serotonin transporter (5-HTTLPR), and perceived maternal acceptance/rejection and control, in a population-representative sample. Participants were 453 adolescents and 540 young adults. Fears were assessed by a 18-item Fear Questionnaire, and perceived maternal relationships by the Mother Acceptance-Rejection/Control Questionnaire. A structured psychiatric interview was used to assess current and lifetime psychiatric disorders in participants from the older cohort. A principal component analyses indicated 2 components, named Fear/Phobia and Panic/Despair. Females expressed higher level of fears and symptoms of despair regardless of the serotonin transporter genotype. The 5-HTTLPR genotype nevertheless played a role in the association between fears and perceived relationships: in S/S-genotype, more Fear/Phobia was reported by the participants who perceived greater maternal acceptance in combination with strict maternal control, and had a history of psychiatric disorder.

Keywords: fears; maternal acceptance/rejection; maternal control; population representative sample; psychiatric; serotonin transporter gene.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Depression / genetics
  • Depression / physiopathology
  • Depression / psychology
  • Fear / physiology*
  • Fear / psychology*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Genotype
  • Genotyping Techniques
  • Humans
  • Interview, Psychological
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / genetics
  • Mental Disorders / physiopathology
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Mother-Child Relations / psychology*
  • Panic / physiology
  • Polymorphism, Genetic
  • Principal Component Analysis
  • Serotonin Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins / genetics*
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • Social Perception*
  • Young Adult


  • SLC6A4 protein, human
  • Serotonin Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins