Effects of stressful life events, maternal depression and 5-HTTLPR genotype on emotional symptoms in pre-adolescent children

Ricardo Araya, Xianzhang Hu, Jon Heron, Mary-Anne Enoch, Jonathan Evans, Glyn Lewis, David Nutt, David Goldman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

51 Citations (Scopus)


There has been a large but inconsistent literature on interactions between the 5-HTTLPR polymorphism of the serotonin transporter gene and adversity on emotional disorders. We investigated these interactions in 4,334 children from a birth longitudinal cohort: the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC). We measured emotional symptoms at 7 years with the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire. Mothers rated stressful life events between ages 5 and 7 years. Maternal depression was defined as a score > or =12 on the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale at 2 or 8 months postnatally. Triallelic genoptyping of the 5-HTTLPR polymorphism was performed. We found strong associations between stressful life events (OR 1.19; 1.12-1.26; P < 0.01) and maternal postnatal depression (OR 1.91; 1.63-2.24; P < 0.01) with emotional symptoms in the children. There were no main 5-HTTLPR genotype effects or significant interactions between genotype and life events or maternal postnatal depression on emotional symptoms. There was marginal evidence (P = 0.08) for an interaction between stressful life events and genotype in boys only, with those in the low and high 5-HTTLPR expression groups showing stronger associations. In these 7-year-old children, we did not replicate previously reported G x E interactions between 5-HTTLPR and life events for emotional symptoms. Gene by environment interactions may be developmentally dependent and show variation depending on the type and levels of exposure and sex. Young cohorts are essential to improve our understanding of the impact of development on gene and environment interactions.

Translated title of the contributionEffects of Stressful Life Events, Maternal Depression and 5-HTTLPR Genotype on Emotional Symptoms in Pre-Adolescent Children
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)670 - 682
Number of pages13
JournalAmerican Journal of Medical Genetics, Part B: Neuropsychiatric Genetics
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 5 Jul 2009


  • Affective Symptoms
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Depression
  • Disease Susceptibility
  • Environment
  • Female
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Life Change Events
  • Male
  • Mothers
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects
  • Serotonin Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins


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