Monoamine Oxidase A (MAOA) and Catechol-O-Methyltransferase (COMT) Gene Polymorphisms Interact with Maternal Parenting in Association with Adolescent Reactive Aggression but not Proactive Aggression: Evidence of Differential Susceptibility

J Youth Adolesc. 2016 Apr;45(4):812-29. doi: 10.1007/s10964-016-0442-1. Epub 2016 Mar 1.


To date, whether and how gene-environment (G × E) interactions operate differently across distinct subtypes of aggression remains untested. More recently, in contrast with the diathesis-stress hypothesis, an alternative hypothesis of differential susceptibility proposes that individuals could be differentially susceptible to environments depending on their genotypes in a "for better and for worse" manner. The current study examined interactions between monoamine oxidase A (MAOA) T941G and catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) Val158Met polymorphisms with maternal parenting on two types of aggression: reactive and proactive. Moreover, whether these potential G × E interactions would be consistent with the diathesis-stress versus the differential susceptibility hypothesis was tested. Within the sample of 1399 Chinese Han adolescents (47.2 % girls, M age = 12.32 years, SD = 0.50), MAOA and COMT genes both interacted with positive parenting in their associations with reactive but not proactive aggression. Adolescents with T alleles/TT homozygotes of MAOA gene or Met alleles of COMT gene exhibited more reactive aggression when exposed to low positive parenting, but less reactive aggression when exposed to high positive parenting. These findings provide the first evidence for distinct G × E interaction effects on reactive versus proactive aggression and lend further support for the differential susceptibility hypothesis.

Keywords: COMT gene; Differential susceptibility; MAOA gene; Proactive aggression; Reactive aggression.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aggression / physiology*
  • Aggression / psychology
  • Alleles
  • Catechol O-Methyltransferase / genetics*
  • Child
  • Female
  • Gene-Environment Interaction*
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Maternal Behavior / ethnology
  • Maternal Behavior / psychology*
  • Monoamine Oxidase / genetics*
  • Polymorphism, Genetic*


  • Monoamine Oxidase
  • Catechol O-Methyltransferase