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Mitigating aggressiveness through education? The monoamine oxidase A genotype and mental health in general population

  • Evelyn Kiive (a1), Kariina Laas (a1), Kirsti Akkermann (a1), Erika Comasco (a1), Lars Oreland (a1), Toomas Veidebaum (a1) and Jaanus Harro (a1)...

Monoamine oxidase A (MAOA) gene promoter region includes a variable number of tandem repeat (VNTR) associated with antisocial behaviour in adverse environment. We have examined the effect of the MAOA-uVNTR on mental health and academic success by using a population representative sample and a longitudinal design.


The data of the older cohort (n = 593, aged 15 years at the original sampling) of the longitudinal Estonian Children Personality, Behaviour and Health Study (ECPBHS) were used. Follow-ups were conducted at ages 18 and 25 years. Aggressiveness, inattention and hyperactivity were reported by class teachers or, at older age, self-reported. Stressful life events, psychological environment in the family and interactions between family members were self-reported. Data of general mental abilities and education were obtained at the age of 25, and lifetime psychiatric disorder assessment was carried out with the Mini-International Neuropsychiatric Interview (MINI) interview.


MAOA-uVNTR genotype had no independent effect on aggressiveness, hyperactive and inattentive symptoms, and neither was there a genotype interaction with adverse life events. Interestingly, the proportion of male subjects with higher education by the age of 25 was significantly larger among those with MAOA low-activity alleles (χ2 = 7.13; p = 0.008). Logistic regression revealed that MAOA low-activity alleles, higher mental abilities, occurrence of anxiety disorders and absence of substance-use disorder were significant independent predictors for higher education in male subjects.


In a population representative sample of young subjects, the MAOA-uVNTR ‘risk genotype’ predicted better life outcomes as expressed in higher level of education.

Corresponding author
Evelyn Kiive, Department of Psychology, University of Tartu, Tiigi 78, Tartu 50410, Estonia. Tel: +372 7 375 908; Fax: +372 7 375 900; E-mail:
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