Monoamine oxidase A (MAOA) interaction with parenting practices on callous-unemotional traits in preschoolers

N. Pueyo, J. B. Navarro, M. Fatjó-Vilas, N. de la Osa, E. Penelo, L. Fañanás, L. Ezpeleta*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Background and Objectives: From a gene-by-environment perspective, parenting in interaction with the polymorphism in the Monoamine oxidase A (MAOA) gene (MAOA-uVNTR) might also be associated with increased callous-unemotional traits (CU) in preschoolers. MAOA-uVNTR results in differential enzyme activity, so that high-activity alleles (MAOA-H) are linked to reduced dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine availability in comparison to low-activity allele (MAOA-L). As MAOA-uVNTR has been previously described to moderate the relationship between childhood parental maltreatment and aggressive and antisocial behavior, it may also play a role in CU traits etiology. Methods: Data was collected through questionnaires answered by parents and teachers. MAOA-uVNTR was genotyped in 368 Caucasian children from a community sample (51.9% male). Multiple linear regression analyses were conducted to analyze the interaction effect of MAOA genotypes and both positive parenting and punitive parenting practices on CU traits at two different periods (3 and 5 years old) and separately by sex. Results: No significant interactions were found for boys. Among girls, a significant interaction effect was found for MAOA-LL carriers, who showed higher CU traits at age 5 when exposed to higher punitive or positive parenting at age 3. Conclusions: Our study provides the first evidence for significant MAOA × early parenting effects on CU traits in preschoolers, specifically among female MAOA-LL carriers. This suggests that the MAOA-LL genotype for girls is associated with higher sensitivity to both positive and punitive parenting in girls, so that MAOA-LL emerges as a genotype that confers higher vulnerability to parental influences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)225-233
Number of pages9
JournalEuropean Journal of Psychiatry
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2021


  • Callous unemotional traits
  • Development
  • Gene by environment
  • MAOA
  • Parenting practices
  • Preschool


Dive into the research topics of 'Monoamine oxidase A (MAOA) interaction with parenting practices on callous-unemotional traits in preschoolers'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this