Variation in mothers' arginine vasopressin receptor 1a and dopamine receptor D4 genes predicts maternal sensitivity via social cognition

E. M. Leerkes, J. Su, S. Calkins, V. C. Henrich, A. Smolen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations

Abstract

We examined the extent to which the arginine vasopressin receptor 1a (AVPR1a) and dopamine receptor D4 (DRD4) were related to sensitive maternal behavior directly or indirectly via maternal social cognition. Participants were 207 (105 European-American and 102 African-American) mothers and their children (52% females). Sensitive maternal behavior was rated and aggregated across a series of tasks when infants were 6 months, 1 year and 2 years old. At 6 months, mothers were interviewed about their empathy, attributions about infant behavior and beliefs about crying to assess their parenting-related social cognition. Mothers with long alleles for AVPR1a and DRD4 engaged in more mother-oriented social cognition (i.e. negative attributions and beliefs about their infants' crying, β = 0.13, P < 0.05 and β = 0.16, P < 0.05, respectively), which in turn predicted less sensitive maternal behavior (β = −0.23, P < 0.01). Both indirect effects were statistically significant independent of one another and covariates [95% confidence interval (CI): −0.22, −0.03 and β = −0.03 for AVPR; 95% CI: −0.20, −0.03 and β = −0.04 for DRD4]. There were no significant direct effects of AVPR1a or DRD4 on maternal sensitivity (β = 0.02, P =.73 and β = −0.10, P =.57, respectively). The results did not vary for African-American and European-American mothers (Δχ2 = 18.76, Δdf = 16, P = 0.28). Results support the view that one mechanism by which maternal genes are associated with parental behavior is via social cognition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)233-240
Number of pages8
JournalGenes, Brain and Behavior
Volume16
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 1 2017
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Arginine vasopressin
  • AVPR1a
  • dopamine
  • DRD4
  • infants
  • mothers
  • sensitivity
  • social cognition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Neurology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

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