Springer Nature [academic journals on nature.com], Molecular Psychiatry, 10(11), p. 903-913, 2006
Previous research on adults has shown that a functional polymorphism in the promoter region of the monoamine oxidase A (MAOA) gene moderates the impact of childhood maltreatment on risk for developing antisocial behavior. Thus far, attempts to replicate this finding have been mixed. The current study (i) presents new data investigating this finding in a sample of 975 seven-year-old boys, and (ii) evaluates the extant data by conducting a meta-analysis of published findings. We replicated the original finding by showing that the MAOA polymorphism moderates the development of psychopathology after exposure to physical abuse, we extended the finding to childhood closer in time to the maltreatment experience, and we ruled-out the possibility of a spurious finding by accounting for passive and evocative gene-environment correlation. Moreover, meta-analysis demonstrated that across studies, the association between maltreatment and mental health problems is significantly stronger in the group of males with the genotype conferring low vs high MAOA activity. These findings provide the strongest evidence to date suggesting that the MAOA gene influences vulnerability to environmental stress, and that this biological process can be initiated early in life.