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European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry

, Volume 21, Issue 3, pp 125–132 | Cite as

Childhood aggression, callous-unemotional traits and oxytocin genes

  • Joseph H. BeitchmanEmail author
  • Clement C. Zai
  • Katherine Muir
  • Laura Berall
  • Behdin Nowrouzi
  • Esther Choi
  • James L. Kennedy
Original Contribution

Abstract

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.

Keywords

Childhood aggression Oxytocin Callous-unemotional trait Genetics Oxytocin receptor Aggression 

Notes

Acknowledgment

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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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joseph H. Beitchman
    • 1
    • 3
    Email author
  • Clement C. Zai
    • 2
    • 3
  • Katherine Muir
    • 4
  • Laura Berall
    • 5
  • Behdin Nowrouzi
    • 1
  • Esther Choi
    • 1
  • James L. Kennedy
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Child, Youth and Family Program, Centre for Addiction and Mental HealthTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Neurogenetics SectionCentre for Addiction and Mental HealthTorontoCanada
  3. 3.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  4. 4.University of TorontoTorontoCanada
  5. 5.University of Western OntarioLondonCanada

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