Early life stress has been shown to contribute to alterations in biobehavioral regulation. Genetic make-up, especially related to social sensitivity, might affect the child’s vulnerability to these alterations. This study examined whether maternal verbally aggressive behavior in early infancy interacts with oxytocin polymorphisms in changing resting cardiovascular outcomes at age 5–6. In the Amsterdam-Born-Children-and-their-Development-(ABCD)-study, a large prospective, observational, population-based birth cohort, maternal verbally aggressive behavior was assessed in the 13th postnatal week (range 11–25 weeks, SD 2 weeks) by a questionnaire (maternal self-report). Indicators of resting cardiac autonomic nervous system activity (sympathetic drive by pre-ejection period, parasympathetic drive by respiratory sinus arrhythmia), heart rate, and blood pressure were measured at age 5–6 years. Data on oxytocin receptor gene polymorphisms rs53576, rs2268498 and oxytocin polymorphisms rs2740210, rs4813627, were collected (N = 966 included). If the child was carrier of the rs53576 GG variant, exposure to maternal verbally aggressive behavior (10.6%) was associated with increased systolic blood pressure at age 5–6 (B = 4.9 mmHg,95% CI [2.2;7.7]). If the child was carrier of the rs2268498 TT/TC variant, exposure to maternal verbally aggressive behavior was associated with increased systolic blood pressure at age 5–6 (B = 3.0 mmHg,95%CI[1.0:5.0]). No significant interactions of maternal verbally aggressive behavior with oxytocin gene polymorphisms on heart rate or cardiac autonomic nervous system activity were found. In conclusion, oxytocin receptor gene polymorphisms may partly determine a child’s vulnerability to develop increased systolic blood pressure after being exposed to maternal verbally aggressive behavior in early infancy.
Smarius, L. J. C. A., Strieder, T. G. A., Doreleijers, T. A. H., Vrijkotte, T. G. M., Zafarmand, M. H., & de Rooij, S. R. (2019). Common oxytocin polymorphisms interact with maternal verbal aggression in early infancy impacting blood pressure at age 5-6: The ABCD study. PLoS ONE, 14(6), [e0216035]. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0216035