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MAOA, abuse exposure and antisocial behaviour: 30-year longitudinal study

  • David M. Fergusson (a1), Joseph M. Boden (a1), L. John Horwood (a1), Allison L. Miller (a2) and Martin A. Kennedy (a2)...

Recent studies have raised issues concerning the replicability of gene × environment (G × E) interactions involving the monoamine oxidase A (MAOA) gene in moderating the associations between abuse or maltreatment exposure and antisocial behaviour. This study attempted to replicate the findings in this area using a 30-year longitudinal study that has strong resemblance to the original research cohort.


To test the hypothesis that the presence of the low-activity MAOA genotype was associated with an increased response to abuse exposure.


Participants were 398 males from the Christchurch Health and Development Study who had complete data on: MAOA promoter region variable number tandem repeat genotype; antisocial behaviour to age 30; and exposure to childhood sexual and physical abuse.


Regression models were fitted to five antisocial behaviour outcomes (self-reported property offending; self-reported violent offending; convictions for property/violent offending; conduct problems; hostility) observed from age 16 to 30, using measures of childhood exposure to sexual and physical abuse. The analyses revealed consistent evidence of G × E interactions, with those having the low-activity MAOA variant and who were exposed to abuse in childhood being significantly more likely to report later offending, conduct problems and hostility. These interactions remained statistically significant after control for a range of potentially confounding factors. Findings for convictions data were somewhat weaker.


The present findings add to the evidence suggesting that there is a stable G × E interaction involving MAOA, abuse exposure and antisocial behaviour across the life course.

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Corresponding author
David M. Fergusson, PhD, Christchurch Health and Development Study, University of Otago, Christchurch, PO Box 4345, Christchurch, New Zealand. Email:
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This research was funded by grants from the Health Research Council of New Zealand, the National Child Health Research Foundation, the Canterbury Medical Research Foundation, the New Zealand Lottery Grants Board, the University of Otago, the Carney Centre for Pharmacogenomics, the James Hume Bequest Fund, and US NIH grant MH077874.

Declaration of interest


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MAOA, abuse exposure and antisocial behaviour: 30-year longitudinal study

  • David M. Fergusson (a1), Joseph M. Boden (a1), L. John Horwood (a1), Allison L. Miller (a2) and Martin A. Kennedy (a2)...
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