The role of oxytocinergic genes in the intergenerational transmission of parent-child relationship qualities

Horm Behav. 2019 Aug;114:104540. doi: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2019.06.004. Epub 2019 Jul 20.


Parenting qualities are known to transmit across generations, but less is known about genetic processes that may modify how strongly parenting quality carries across generations. We examined in prospective data whether oxytocinergic genes of offspring moderate the intergenerational transmission of warm and accepting parent-child relationship qualities. The sample comprised 1167 Finnish parents (G2, 62% female) and their mothers (G1). At the study baseline, G1 mothers (Mage = 38) reported parent-child relationship qualities towards G2 children (age range 3-18). After 28-34 years, G2 offspring reported parent-child relationship qualities towards their own children using the same questionnaire. A cumulative genetic score was computed for G2 by summing up previously identified four alleles associated with non-optimal parenting or social impairments across OXTR (rs1042778, rs2254298, rs53576) and CD38 (rs3796863) genes. Results indicated no interaction effects of G2 cumulative genetic score on the transmission of parent-child relationship qualities. Among single polymorphisms in OXTR, the interaction effects of rs53576 and rs1042778 were found. G1 maternal emotional warmth was associated with higher G2 emotional warmth among G2 participants with the OXTR rs53576 AA/AG genotype, but not among those with the GG genotype. G1 maternal acceptance was associated with higher G2 acceptance among those G2 participants with the OXTR rs1042778 GG/GT genotype, but not among those with the TT genotype. Oxytocinergic genes may influence sensitivity to quality of parent-child relationship, although this needs replication in future studies.

Keywords: Acceptance; CD38 gene; Gene-environment (GxE) interaction; Intergenerational transmission; Oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR); Parent–child relationship qualities; Warmth.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • ADP-ribosyl Cyclase 1 / genetics
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Alleles
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Gene-Environment Interaction
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Inheritance Patterns / genetics*
  • Male
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / genetics
  • Middle Aged
  • Mothers
  • Oxytocin / genetics*
  • Parent-Child Relations*
  • Parenting* / psychology
  • Parents
  • Polymorphism, Genetic
  • Prospective Studies
  • Receptors, Oxytocin / genetics*


  • Membrane Glycoproteins
  • Receptors, Oxytocin
  • Oxytocin
  • CD38 protein, human
  • ADP-ribosyl Cyclase 1