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Oxytocin Receptor Gene Variant Interacts with Intervention Delivery Format in Predicting Intervention Outcomes for Youth with Conduct Problems

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Coping Power is an evidence-based preventive intervention program for youth with aggressive behavior problems that has traditionally been delivered in small group formats. Because of concerns about iatrogenic effects secondary to aggregation of high risk youth, the current study examined whether genetic risk may moderate intervention outcome when youth were randomly assigned to group versus individual formats of an intervention. The oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR) has been associated with social behavior and may influence susceptibility to social reinforcement in general and deviant peer influence in particular. One variant of OXTR (rs2268493) was examined in 197 fourth-grade African-American children (64% male) who were randomly assigned to Group Coping Power or Individual Coping Power (Lochman et al. 2015). Longitudinal assessments of teacher- and parent-reported behavior were collected through a 1-year follow-up. Growth curve analyses revealed a genotype by delivery format interaction. Youth with the A/A genotype demonstrated reductions in externalizing problems over the course of the intervention regardless of intervention format. In contrast, carriers of the G allele receiving the group-based intervention showed little improvement during the intervention and a worsening of symptoms during the follow-up year, while those receiving the individual format demonstrated reductions in externalizing problems. Given the associations between this OXTR variant and social bonding, carriers of the G allele may be more sensitive to social rewards from deviant peers in the group setting. This study suggests that genetic factors may be useful in predicting which type of intervention will be most effective for a particular individual.

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  1. Based on previous findings by Lochman et al. (2015), models were also run including the child characteristic inhibitory control, but findings regarding genotype were similar to what is reported. Interactions with gender were also examined, but were not significant.


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Correspondence to Andrea L. Glenn.

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Research in this paper has been supported by grants from the National Institute of Drug Abuse (R01 DA023156) and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (R01 HD079273).

Conflict of Interest

None of the authors except for John Lochman has a conflict of interest. John Lochman is co-developer of the Coping Power program and receives royalties for the implementation guide published by Oxford University Press.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Glenn, A.L., Lochman, J.E., Dishion, T. et al. Oxytocin Receptor Gene Variant Interacts with Intervention Delivery Format in Predicting Intervention Outcomes for Youth with Conduct Problems. Prev Sci 19, 38–48 (2018).

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