Skip to main content

Maternal rearing styles and loneliness: The moderating role of the COMT Val158Met polymorphism

Abstract

Loneliness is a common problem in adulthood, with deleterious effects on mental health. In the present study, we examined whether the effects of maternal rearing styles on loneliness are moderated by the catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) Val158Met polymorphism and whether loneliness can further affect mental health as a mediator in 1034 genotyped participants. The results showed that the COMT genotype significantly moderated the relationship between maternal rejection and loneliness; more specifically, Val carriers who perceived higher levels of rejection from their mothers demonstrated higher levels of loneliness. The moderated mediation model revealed that loneliness meditated the indirect effects of maternal rejection on life satisfaction. Specifically, for individuals with the Val/Val genotype, higher rejection from their mothers had a greater influence on their life satisfaction through loneliness. In addition, we found that the effect of COMT Val158Met maternal rejection on loneliness and the effect of maternal rejection on Val/Val adults’ life satisfaction via loneliness existed across different age groups. These findings provide a new understanding of the gene–parenting interaction effect on loneliness and its influence on mental health.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1

Data Availability

The de-identified data that support the main findings of this study are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.

References

  1. Adler, N. E., Epel, E. S., Castellazzo, G., & Ickovics, J. R. (2000). Relationship of subjective and objective social status with psychological and physiological functioning: Preliminary data in healthy, white women. Health Psychology, 19(6), 586–592. https://doi.org/10.1037/02786133.19.6.586.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  2. Aiken, L. S., West, S. G., & Reno, R. R. (1991). Multiple regression: Testing and interpreting interactions. New York: Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Anderson, C. A., Pettersson, F. H., Clarke, G. M., Cardon, L. R., Morris, A. P., & Zondervan, K. T. (2010). Data quality control in genetic case-control association studies. Nature Protocols, 5(9), 1564–1573. https://doi.org/10.1038/nprot.2010.116.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  4. Belsky, J., & Pluess, M. (2009). Beyond diathesis stress: Differential susceptibility to environmental influences. Psychological Bulletin, 135(6), 885–908. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0017376.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  5. Boada, M., Antúnez, C., López-Arrieta, J., Galán, J. J., Morón, F. J., Hernández, I., et al. (2010). CALHM1 P86L polymorphism is associated with late-onset Alzheimer's disease in a recessive model. Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, 20(1), 247–251. https://doi.org/10.3233/JAD-2010-1357.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  6. Braza, P., Carreras, R., Muñoz, J. M., Braza, F., Azurmendi, A., Pascual-Sagastizábal, E., Cardas, J., & Sánchez-Martín, J. R. (2015). Negative maternal and paternal parenting styles as predictors of children’s behavioral problems: Moderating effects of the child’s sex. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 24(4), 847–856. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-013-9893-0.

  7. Cacioppo, J. T., & Patrick, W. (2008). Loneliness: Human nature and the need for social connection. New York, NY: Norton.

    Google Scholar 

  8. Cacioppo, J. T., Cacioppo, S., & Boomsma, D. I. (2014). Evolutionary mechanisms for loneliness. Cognition & Emotion, 28(1), 3–21. https://doi.org/10.1080/02699931.2013.837379.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Cacioppo, J. T., Hawkley, L. C., & Thisted, R. A. (2010). Perceived social isolation makes me sad: 5-year cross-lagged analyses of loneliness and depressive symptomatology in the Chicago health, aging, and social relations study. Psychology and Aging, 25(2), 453–463. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0017216.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  10. Caspi, A., Harrington, H., Moffitt, T. E., Milne, B. J., & Poulton, R. (2006). Socially isolated children 20 years later: Risk of cardiovascular disease. Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, 160(8), 805–811. https://doi.org/10.1001/archpedi.160.8.805.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Chen, B., Zhu, Z., Wang, Y., Ding, X., Guo, X., He, M., et al. (2018). Nature vs. nurture in human sociality: multi-level genomic analyses of social conformity. Journal of human genetics, 63(5), 605–619. https://doi.org/10.1038/s10038-018-0418-y.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  12. Chou, K.-L. (2010). Moderating effect of Apolipoprotein genotype on loneliness leading to depressive symptoms in Chinese older adults. The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 18(4), 313–322. https://doi.org/10.1097/jgp.0b013e3181c37b2a.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  13. Crockett, L. J., Iturbide, M. I., Torres Stone, R. A., McGinley, M., Raffaelli, M., & Carlo, G. (2007). Acculturative stress, social support, and coping: Relations to psychological adjustment among Mexican American college students. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 13(4), 347–355. https://doi.org/10.1037/10999809.13.4.347.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  14. Dick, D. M., Agrawal, A., Keller, M. C., Adkins, A., Aliev, F., Monroe, S., Hewitt, J. K., Kendler, K. S., & Sher, K. J. (2015). Candidate gene-environment interaction research: Reflections and recommendations. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 10, 37–59. https://doi.org/10.1177/1745691614556682.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  15. Diener, E., Emmons, R. A., Larsen, R. J., & Griffin, S. (1985). The satisfaction with life scale. Journal of Personality Assessment, 49(1), 71–75. https://doi.org/10.1207/s15327752jpa4901_13.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  16. DiTommaso, E., & Spinner, B. (1993). The development and initial validation of the social and emotional loneliness scale for adults (SELSA). Personality and Individual Differences, 14(1), 127–134. https://doi.org/10.1016/01918869(93)90182-3.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Drury, S. S., Theall, K. P., Smyke, A. T., Keats, B. J., Egger, H. L., Nelson, C. A., et al. (2010). Modification of depression by COMT val158met polymorphism in children exposed to early severe psychosocial deprivation. Child Abuse & Neglect, 34(6), 387–395. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2009.09.021.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Duncan, L. E., Pollastri, A. R., & Smoller, J. W. (2014). Mind the gap: Why many geneticists and psychological scientists have discrepant views about gene-environment interaction (G×E) research. American Psychologist, 69, 249–268. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0036320.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Dykstra, P. A., Van Tilburg, T. G., & Gierveld, J. D. J. (2005). Changes in older adult loneliness: Results from a seven-year longitudinal study. Research on Aging, 27(6), 725–747. https://doi.org/10.1177/0164027505279712.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Erzen, E., & Çikrikci, Ö. (2018). The effect of loneliness on depression: A meta analysis. International Journal of Social Psychiatry, 64(5), 427–435. https://doi.org/10.1177/0020764018776349.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Fujimaki, T., Oguri, M., Horibe, H., Kato, K., Matsuoka, R., Abe, S., et al. (2015). Association of a transcription factor 21 gene polymorphism with hypertension. Biomedical Reports, 3(1), 118–122. https://doi.org/10.3892/br.2014.371.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  22. Goodwin, R., Cook, O., & Yung, Y. (2001). Loneliness and life satisfaction among three cultural groups. Personal Relationships, 8(2), 225–230. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.14756811.2001.tb00037.x.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Goossens, L., Van Roekel, E., Verhagen, M., Cacioppo, J. T., Cacioppo, S., Maes, M., & Boomsma, D. I. (2015). The genetics of loneliness: Linking evolutionary theory to genome-wide genetics, epigenetics, and social science. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 10(2), 213–226. https://doi.org/10.1177/1745691614564878.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  24. Guilherme, J. P. L. F., Bertuzzi, R., Lima-Silva, A. E., Pereira, A. D. C., & Lancha Junior, A. H. (2018). Analysis of sports-relevant polymorphisms in a large Brazilian cohort of top-level athletes. Annals of Human Genetics, 82(5), 254–264. https://doi.org/10.1111/ahg.12248.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  25. Harati-Sadegh, M., Kohan, L., Teimoori, B., & Salimi, S. (2018). The long non-coding RNA H19 rs217727 polymorphism is associated with PE susceptibility. Journal of Cellular Biochemistry, 119(7), 5473–5480. https://doi.org/10.1002/jcb.26708.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  26. Hawthorne, G. (2008). Perceived social isolation in a community sample: Its prevalence and correlates with aspects of peoples’ lives. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 43(2), 140–150. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00127-007-0279-8.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  27. Hayes, A. F. (2015). An index and test of linear moderated mediation. Multivariate Behavioral Research, 50(1), 1–22. https://doi.org/10.1080/00273171.2014.962683.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  28. Heinrich, L. M., & Gullone, E. (2006). The clinical significance of loneliness: A literature review. Clinical Psychology Review, 26, 695–718. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cpr.2006.04.002.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  29. Hoff, E., Laursen, B., Tardif, T., & Bornstein, M. (2002). Socioeconomic status and parenting. Handbook of parenting Volume 2: Biology and ecology of parenting, 8(2), 231–252. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780429401459-13.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Hosang, G. M., Fisher, H. L., Cohen-Woods, S., McGuffin, P., & Farmer, A. E. (2017). Stressful life events and catechol-O-methyl-transferase (COMT) gene in bipolar disorder. Depression and Anxiety, 34(5), 419–426. https://doi.org/10.1002/da.22606.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  31. Ira, E., De Santi, K., Lasalvia, A., Bonetto, C., Zanatta, G., Cristofalo, D., et al. (2014). Positive symptoms in first-episode psychosis patients experiencing low maternal care and stressful life events: A pilot study to explore the role of the COMT gene. Stress, 17(5), 410–415. https://doi.org/10.3109/10253890.2014.948841.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  32. Jern, P., Verweij, K. J., Barlow, F. K., & Zietsch, B. P. (2017). Reported associations between receptor genes and human sociality are explained by methodological errors and do not replicate. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 114(44), E9185–E9186. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1710880114.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  33. Jiang, J., Lu, Z. R., Jiang, B. J., & Xu, Y. (2010). Revision of the short-form Egna Minnen av Barndoms Uppfostran for Chinese. Psychological Development and Education, 1, 94–99.

    Google Scholar 

  34. Kim, H. S., Sherman, D. K., Mojaverian, T., Sasaki, J. Y., Park, J., Suh, E. M., & Taylor, S. E. (2011). Gene–culture interaction: Oxytocin receptor polymorphism (OXTR) and emotion regulation. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 2(6), 665–672. https://doi.org/10.1177/1948550611405854.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Klein, M., Schmoeger, M., Kasper, S., & Schosser, A. (2016). Meta-analysis of the COMT Val158Met polymorphism in major depressive disorder: The role of gender. The World Journal of Biological Psychiatry, 17(2), 147–158. https://doi.org/10.3109/15622975.2015.1083615.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  36. Koch, M. J., & McGrath, R. G. (1996). Improving labor productivity: Human resource management policies do matter. Strategic Management Journal, 17(5), 335–354. .

  37. Laland, K. N. (2008). Exploring gene–culture interactions: Insights from handedness, sexual selection and niche-construction case studies. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 363(1509), 3577–3589. https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2008.0132.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. LeClair, J., Sasaki, J. Y., Ishii, K., Shinada, M., & Kim, H. S. (2016). Gene–culture interaction: Influence of culture and oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR) polymorphism on loneliness. Culture and Brain, 4(1), 21–37. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40167-016-0034-7.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. Lee, C., Dickson, D. A., Conley, C. S., & Holmbeck, G. N. (2014). A closer look at self-esteem, perceived social support, and coping strategy: A prospective study of depressive symptomatology across the transition to college. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 33(6), 560–585. https://doi.org/10.1521/jscp.2014.33.6.560.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. Lewis, C. M. (2002). Genetic association studies: Design, analysis and interpretation. Briefings in Bioinformatics, 3(2), 146–153. https://doi.org/10.1093/bib/3.2.146.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  41. Lucht, M. J., Barnow, S., Sonnenfeld, C., Rosenberger, A., Grabe, H. J., Schroeder, W., Völzke, H., Freyberger, H. J., Herrmann, F. H., Kroemer, H., & Rosskopf, D. (2009). Associations between the oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR) and affect, loneliness and intelligence in normal subjects. Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry, 33(5), 860–866. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pnpbp.2009.04.004.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  42. Luo, S., Li, B., Ma, Y., Zhang, W., Rao, Y., & Han, S. (2015a). Oxytocin receptor gene and racial ingroup bias in empathy-related brain activity. NeuroImage, 110, 22–31. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2015.01.042.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  43. Luo, S., Ma, Y., Liu, Y., Li, B., Wang, C., Shi, Z., Li, X., Zhang, W., Rao, Y., & Han, S. (2015b). Interaction between oxytocin receptor polymorphism and interdependent culture values on human empathy. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 10(9), 1273–1281. https://doi.org/10.1093/scan/nsv019.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  44. Luo, S., Zhang, T., Li, W., Yu, M., Hein, G., & Han, S. (2019). Interactions between oxytocin receptor gene and intergroup relationship on empathic neural responses to others’ pain. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 14(5), 505–517.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. Luo, Y., Hawkley, L. C., Waite, L. J., & Cacioppo, J. T. (2012). Loneliness, health, and mortality in old age: A national longitudinal study. Social Science & Medicine, 74(6), 907–914. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2011.11.028.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. Mahon, N. E., Yarcheski, A., Yarcheski, T. J., Cannella, B. L., & Hanks, M. M. (2006). A meta analytic study of predictors for loneliness during adolescence. Nursing Research, 55(5), 308 315. https://doi.org/10.1097/00006199-200609000-00003.

  47. Marangoni, C., & Ickes, W. (1989). Loneliness: A theoretical review with implications for measurement. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 6, 93–128. https://doi.org/10.1177/026540758900600107.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  48. Minelli, C., Thompson, J. R., Abrams, K. R., Thakkinstian, A., & Attia, J. (2005). The choice of a genetic model in the meta-analysis of molecular association studies. International Journal of Epidemiology, 34(6), 1319–1328. https://doi.org/10.1093/ije/dyi169.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  49. Pinquart, M. (2017). Associations of parenting dimensions and styles with externalizing problems of children and adolescents: An updated meta-analysis. Developmental Psychology, 53(5), 873–932. https://doi.org/10.1037/dev0000295.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  50. Rutter, M., Moffitt, T. E., & Caspi, A. (2006). Gene–environment interplay and psychopathology: Multiple varieties but real effects. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 47(3–4), 226–261. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1469-7610.2005.01557.x.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  51. Schultz Jr., N. R., & Moore, D. (1986). The loneliness experience of college students: Sex differences. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 12(1), 111–119. https://doi.org/10.1177/0146167286121011.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  52. Spithoven, A. W., Cacioppo, S., Goossens, L., & Cacioppo, J. T. (2019). Genetic contributions to loneliness and their relevance to the evolutionary theory of loneliness. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 14(3), 376–396. https://doi.org/10.1177/1745691618812684.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  53. Tsai, S. J., Yeh, H. L., Hong, C. J., Liou, Y. J., Yang, A. C., Liu, M. E., & Hwang, J. P. (2012). Association of CHRNA4 polymorphism with depression and loneliness in elderly males. Genes, Brain and Behavior, 11(2), 230–234. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1601183X.2011.00741.x.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  54. Vinkers, C. H., Van Gastel, W. A., Schubart, C. D., Van Eijk, K. R., Luykx, J. J., Van Winkel, R., et al. (2013). The effect of childhood maltreatment and cannabis use on adult psychotic symptoms is modified by the COMT Val158Met polymorphism. Schizophrenia Research, 150(1), 303–311.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  55. Wheeler, L., Reis, H., & Nezlek, J. B. (1983). Loneliness, social interaction, and sex roles. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 45(4), 943–953. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.45.4.943.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  56. Xu, J., Ni, S., Ran, M., & Zhang, C. (2017). The relationship between parenting styles and adolescents’ social anxiety in migrant families: A study in Guangdong, China. Frontiers in Psychology, 8, 626. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00626.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  57. Yavuzer, Y., Albayrak, G., & Kılıçarslan, S. (2019). Relationships amongst aggression, self -theory, loneliness, and depression in emerging adults. Psychological Reports, 122(4), 1235–1258. https://doi.org/10.1177/0033294118784866.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  58. Yeung, W. J., Sandberg, J. F., Davis-Kean, P. E., & Hofferth, S. L. (2001). Children's time with fathers in intact families. Journal of Marriage and Family, 63(1), 136–154. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.17413737.2001.00136.x.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  59. Yu, M., Huang, L., Mao, J., & Luo, S. (2020). Childhood maltreatment, automatic negative thoughts, and resilience: The protective roles of culture and genes. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 0886260520912582, 088626052091258. https://doi.org/10.1177/0886260520912582.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  60. Zhou, X., Zhu, H., Zhang, B., & Cai, T. (2013). Perceived social support as moderator of perfectionism, depression, and anxiety in college students. Social Behavior and Personality: An International Journal, 41(7), 1141–1152. https://doi.org/10.2224/sbp.2013.41.7.1141.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Code Availability

The custom computer code that was used in the main analysis of this study is available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.

Funding

This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31800916, 32071081), the Guangdong Basic and Applied Basic Research Foundation (Project 2020A1515010975).

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Contributions

WW, LYD, HTT and LSY designed the research; Gese DNA and LSY collected data, Gese DNA, WW, LYD, HTT and LSY analyzed data; WW, LYD, HTT and LSY wrote the manuscript. All authors commented on the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Siyang Luo.

Ethics declarations

Ethical Approval

All experimental procedures conformed to the Declaration of Helsinki and were approved by the local Research Ethics Committee of the Department of Psychology, Sun Yat-sen University.

Informed consents were obtained from participants prior to the study.

Conflict of Interest

The Gese DNA Research Team are employees of Beijing Gese Technology Co., Ltd. The remaining authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Additional information

Publisher’s Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Supplementary Information

ESM 1

(DOCX 67 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Wei, W., Lin, Y., Hong, T. et al. Maternal rearing styles and loneliness: The moderating role of the COMT Val158Met polymorphism. Curr Psychol (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12144-021-01639-1

Download citation

Keywords

  • Loneliness
  • Maternal rearing styles
  • COMT Val158Met
  • Gene-environment interaction
  • Life satisfaction