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The interaction between monoamine oxidase A and punitive discipline in the development of antisocial behavior: Mediation by maladaptive social information processing

  • Chardée A. Galán (a1), Daniel Ewon Choe (a2), Erika E. Forbes (a1) and Daniel S. Shaw (a1)

Previous studies demonstrate that boys' monoamine oxidase A (MAOA) genotype interacts with adverse rearing environments in early childhood, including punitive discipline, to predict later antisocial behavior. Yet the mechanisms by which MAOA and punitive parenting interact during childhood to amplify risk for antisocial behavior are not well understood. In the present study, hostile attributional bias and aggressive response generation during middle childhood, salient aspects of maladaptive social information processing, were tested as possible mediators of this relation in a sample of 187 low-income men followed prospectively from infancy into early adulthood. Given racial–ethnic variation in MAOA allele frequencies, analyses were conducted separately by race. In both African American and Caucasian men, those with the low-activity MAOA allele who experienced more punitive discipline at age 1.5 generated more aggressive responses to perceived threat at age 10 relative to men with the high-activity variant. In the African American subsample only, formal mediation analyses indicated a marginally significant indirect effect of maternal punitiveness on adult arrest records via aggressive response generation in middle childhood. The findings suggest that maladaptive social information processing may be an important mechanism underlying the association between MAOA × Parenting interactions and antisocial behavior in early adulthood. The present study extends previous work in the field by demonstrating that MAOA and harsh parenting assessed in early childhood interact to not only predict antisocial behavior in early adulthood, but also predict social information processing, a well-established social–cognitive correlate of antisocial behavior.

Corresponding author
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Chardée A. Galán, Department of Psychology, University of Pittsburgh, 210 South Bouquet Street, 4425 Sennott Square, Pittsburgh, PA 15260-0001; E-mail:
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This research was supported by National Institute on Drug Abuse Grant K05 DA025630 and NIMH Grant R01 MH050907 (to D.S.S.) and National Institute on Drug Abuse Grant R01 DA02622 (to D.S.S. and E.E.F.), all from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. This work was also supported by a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship (to C.A.G.). We thank the families for participation in the study and the research staff for their help with data collection and management.

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