The British Journal of Psychiatry
Moderating role of the MAOA genotype in antisocial behaviour
David M. Fergusson, Joseph M. Boden, L. John Horwood, Allison Miller, Martin A. Kennedy
  • Declaration of interest




Recent studies have examined gene×environment (G×E) interactions involving the monoamine oxidase A (MAOA) gene in moderating the associations between exposure to adversity and antisocial behaviour. The present study examined a novel method for assessing interactions between a single gene and multiple risk factors related to environmental and personal adversity.


To test the hypothesis that the presence of the low-activity MAOA genotype was associated with an increased response to a series of risk factors.


Participants were 399 males from the Christchurch Health and Development Study who had complete data on: (a) MAOA promoter region variable number tandem repeat genotype; (b) antisocial behaviour (criminal offending) to age 30 and convictions to age 21; and (c) maternal smoking during pregnancy, IQ, childhood maltreatment and school failure.


Poisson regression models were fitted to three antisocial behaviour outcomes (property/violent offending ages 15–30; and convictions ages 17–21), using measures of exposure to adverse childhood circumstances. The analyses revealed consistent evidence of G x E interactions, such that those with the low-activity MAOA variant who were exposed to adversity in childhood were significantly more likely to report offending in late adolescence and early adulthood.


The present findings add to the evidence suggesting that there is a stable G x E interaction involving MAOA, a range of adverse environmental and personal factors, and antisocial behaviour across the life course. These analyses also demonstrate the utility of using multiple environmental/personal exposures to test G×E interactions.

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