This article presents the findings of a study that examined whether the interaction between early threat exposure and oxytocin receptor variation confers risk for disorder-specific outcomes and/or general psychopathology in early adulthood; and whether social–emotional deficits during adolescence constitute mediating mechanisms.
The current study used a prospective, longitudinal sample of females (n = 2,020) to examine: (a) whether the interaction between early threat exposure and (OXTR) variation (rs53576, rs2254298) confers risk for disorder-specific outcomes (depression, anxiety, borderline and antisocial personality disorders) and/or general psychopathology in early adulthood; and (b) whether social–emotional deficits (emotion dysregulation, callousness, attachment quality) during adolescence constitute mediating mechanisms. Early threat exposure is a transdiagnostic risk factor for psychopathology, and evidence suggests that genetic variation in the (OXTR) moderates this association; however, it is unclear whether this gene-by-environment (G×E) interaction is tied to unique risk for disorder-specific outcomes or instead increases shared risk for general psychopathology. Moreover, little is known about how this G×E interaction increases risk. Consistent with hypotheses, the current study found that the interactive effects of early threat exposure and OXTR variation (rs53576) predicted general psychopathology, with threat-exposed women carrying at least one copy of the rs53576 A-allele at greatest risk. This interaction was mediated via emotional dysregulation in adolescence, with threat-exposed A-allele carriers demonstrating greater emotion dysregulation, and greater emotion dysregulation predicting general psychopathology in early adulthood. Findings suggest that this G×E places women at risk for a broad range of psychopathology via effects on emotion dysregulation. (Publisher abstract provided)