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Psychology

Role of Genotype in the Cycle of Violence in Maltreated Children

Avshalom Caspi,12 Joseph McClay,1 Terrie E. Moffitt,12* Jonathan Mill,1 Judy Martin,3 Ian W. Craig,1 Alan Taylor,1 Richie Poulton3

We studied a large sample of male children from birth to adulthood to determine why some children who are maltreated grow up to develop antisocial behavior, whereas others do not. A functional polymorphism in the gene encoding the neurotransmitter-metabolizing enzyme monoamine oxidase A (MAOA) was found to moderate the effect of maltreatment. Maltreated children with a genotype conferring high levels of MAOA expression were less likely to develop antisocial problems. These findings may partly explain why not all victims of maltreatment grow up to victimize others, and they provide epidemiological evidence that genotypes can moderate children's sensitivity to environmental insults.

1 Medical Research Council Social, Genetic, and Developmental Psychiatry Research Centre, Institute of Psychiatry, King's College, London SE5 8AF, UK.
2 Department of Psychology, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI 53706, USA.
3 Dunedin School of Medicine, Box 913, University of Otago, New Zealand.
*   To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: t.moffitt@iop.kcl.ac.uk


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Volume 297, Number 5582, Issue of 2 Aug 2002, pp. 851-854.
Copyright 2002 by The American Association for the Advancement of Science. All rights reserved.

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