Childhood aggression, callous-unemotional traits and oxytocin genes
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Given the known behavior effects of oxytocin, and in particular its putative effect on trust, affiliation and anxiety, we hypothesized that oxytocin may be involved in the development and expression of callous-unemotional traits in children with aggressive antisocial behavior. We recruited 162 children between the ages of 6 and 16. The majority of subjects were Caucasian (84.0%) compared to African-Canadian (4.9%) and others (11.1%). The oxytocin and oxytocin receptor gene polymorphisms were genotyped and analyzed for possible association with child aggression in a case–control study design as well as with callous-unemotional traits in a within cases analysis. We did not have significant findings with our tested OXTR markers in the case–control analysis. We found the OXTR_rs237885 AA genotype carriers to score higher than AC or CC genotype carriers on the callous-unemotional traits. This result remained significant following correction for multiple testing. No other markers were found to be significant. However, the haplotype consisting of the OXTR_rs237885 A allele and OXTR_rs2268493 A allele was associated with significantly higher callous-unemotional scores than other haplotypes. This is the first known study to show a significant association between callous-unemotional traits in children and adolescents with extreme, persistent pervasive aggression and a polymorphism on the oxytocin receptor. Given the small sample size and the possibility of false positive effects, the need to replicate and verify these findings is required.
KeywordsChildhood aggression Oxytocin Callous-unemotional trait Genetics Oxytocin receptor Aggression
The authors acknowledge the support from the CAMH foundation, the Howitt/Dunbar Foundation and Youthdale Treatment Centres.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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