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Abstract

There is evidence that disturbances in central serotonin (5-HT) function have a role in impulsive aggression, violence, and criminality. A deletion/insertion polymorphism within the 5-HT transporter (5-HTT) promoter gene (5-HTT gene-linked polymorphic region, 5-HTTLPR) is thought to be associated with several psychopathological phenotypes related to disturbed impulse control, anxiety and depression. This study examined the association of the 5-HTTLPR with violent behavior in a sample of 153 male Caucasians referred for a forensic psychiatric examination. We found a significant excess of the short (s) allele and the s/s genotype in patients characterized by recurrent and overt physical violent behavior. This genetic variance explained 5% of the variance of violent behavior. When controlled for the impact of several psychopathologies related to violent behavior, this association was observed in individuals with a history of childhood attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)-related symptoms, but not presenting with personality disorder or increased impulsiveness. In conclusion, the results (i) suggest an association between serotonergic dysfunction and violent behavior, (ii) provide evidence for an—at least partial—genetic regulation of violent behavior in a subgroup of male offenders, and (iii) suggest a significant role for 5-HT transporter functionality for violent behavior. Copyright © 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.