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5HTT genotype moderates the influence of early institutional deprivation on emotional problems in adolescence: evidence from the English and Romanian Adoptee (ERA) study

Authors

  • Robert Kumsta,

    1. MRC Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Centre, Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London, UK
    2. Developmental Brain-Behaviour Laboratory, School of Psychology, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK
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  • Suzanne Stevens,

    1. MRC Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Centre, Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London, UK
    2. Developmental Brain-Behaviour Laboratory, School of Psychology, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK
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  • Keeley Brookes,

    1. MRC Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Centre, Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London, UK
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  • Wolff Schlotz,

    1. Developmental Brain-Behaviour Laboratory, School of Psychology, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK
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  • Jenny Castle,

    1. MRC Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Centre, Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London, UK
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  • Celia Beckett,

    1. MRC Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Centre, Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London, UK
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  • Jana Kreppner,

    1. Developmental Brain-Behaviour Laboratory, School of Psychology, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK
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  • Michael Rutter,

    1. MRC Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Centre, Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London, UK
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  • Edmund Sonuga-Barke

    1. MRC Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Centre, Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London, UK
    2. Developmental Brain-Behaviour Laboratory, School of Psychology, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK
    3. Department of Experimental Clinical and Health Psychology, University of Gent, Belgium
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  • Conflict of interest statement: Professor Edmund Sonuga-Barke: Recent speaker board: Shire, UCB Pharma; Current and recent consultancy: UCB Pharma, Shire; Current and recent research support: Janssen Cilag, Shire, Qbtech, Flynn Pharma; Advisory Board: Shire, Flynn Pharma, UCB Pharma, Astra Zeneca; Conference support: Shire. All other authors report no conflicts of interest.

  • 1

    ‘different form of a gene’

Abstract

Background:  A common polymorphism in the serotonin transporter gene (SLC6A4, 5HTT) has been repeatedly shown to moderate the influence of childhood adversity and stressful life events on the development of psychopathology. Using data from the English and Romanian Adoptee Study, a prospective-longitudinal study of individuals (= 125) exposed to severe early institutional deprivation (ID), we tested whether the effect of ID on adolescent emotional problems is moderated by 5HTT genotype and stressful life events in adolescence.

Methods:  Emotional problems were assessed using questionnaire data (age 11), and on the basis of the CAPA diagnostic interview (age 15). Additionally, the number of stressful life events was measured.

Results:  There was a significant effect for genotype (= .003) and a gene × environment interaction (= .008) that was independent of age at testing. Carriers of the s/l and s/s genotype who experienced severe ID showed the highest emotional problem scores, while l/l homozygotes in the severe ID group showed the lowest overall levels. Furthermore, s/s carriers in the severe ID group who experienced a high number of stressful life events between 11 and 15 years had the largest increases in emotional problem scores, while a low number of stressful life events was associated with the largest decrease (4-way interaction: = .05).

Conclusions:  The effects of severe early ID on emotional problems in adolescence are moderated by 5HTT genotype, and influenced by stressful life events in adolescence.

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