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Catechol-O-methyltransferase Val158Met genotype moderates the effect of disorganized attachment on social development in young children.

  • Author(s): Hygen, Beate Wold
  • Guzey, Ismail Cuneyt
  • Belsky, Jay
  • Berg-Nielsen, Turid Suzanne
  • Wichstrøm, Lars
  • et al.

Children with histories of disorganized attachment exhibit diverse problems, possibly because disorganization takes at least two distinctive forms as children age: controlling-punitive and controlling-caregiving. This variation in the developmental legacy of disorganization has been attributed primarily to variations in children's rearing experiences. Here an alternative explanation of these divergent sequelae of disorganization is evaluated: one focused on genotype. Structural equation modeling was applied to data on 704 Norwegian children to test whether the catechol-O-methyltransferase Val158Met genotype moderates the effect of disorganized attachment, which was measured dimensionally at 4 years of age using the Manchester Child Attachment Story Task, on changes in aggressive behavior and social competence from ages 4 to 6. Children who scored high on disorganization and were homozygous for the valine allele displayed significantly greater increases in aggression and decreases in self-oriented social skills (e.g., self-regulation and assertiveness) over time than did their disorganized counterparts carrying the methionine allele, whereas disorganized children carrying the methionine allele increased their other-oriented social skill (e.g., cooperation and responsibility) scores more than did valine-homozygous children. These results are consistent with the controlling-punitive and controlling-caregiving behaviors observed in disorganized children, suggesting that the children's genotype contributed to variations in the social development of disorganized children.

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