Clin Psychopharmacol Neurosci.  2019 Mar;17(2):200-210. 10.9758/cpn.2019.17.2.200.

Predicting Behavior Problems in Korean Preschoolers: Interactions of the SLC6A4 Gene and Maternal Negative Affectivity

  • 1Department of Psychiatry and Institute of Behavioral Science in Medicine, Yonsei University College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea.
  • 2Department of Child and Family Studies, College of Human Ecology, Yonsei University, Seoul, Korea.
  • 3Department of Child Studies, Seokyeong University, Seoul, Korea.
  • 4Department of Social Welfare, Ewha Womans University, Seoul, Korea.
  • 5Department of Social Welfare, Seoul Jangsin University, Seoul, Korea.
  • 6Department of Neuropsychiatry, Hyoja Geriatric Hospital, Yongin, Korea.


OBJECTIVE: This study aimed to investigate whether maternal negative affectivity (MNA) moderates the effect of genetic polymorphism of SLC6A4 on behavior problems in children.
Study participants comprised 143 preschoolers and their mothers from South Korea. The Childhood Behavior Checklist and Emotionality, Activity, and Sociability adult scale were used to measure child behavior and maternal affectivity. DNA from saliva was genotyped to determine serotonin transporter polymorphism.
MNA appeared to exert effects in externalizing (b=5.78, p<0.001) and internalizing problems (b=6.09, p< 0.001). Interaction between SLCA4 polymorphism and MNA showed effects on externalizing (b=−7.62, p<0.01) and internalizing problems (b=−9.77, p<0.01). Children with two short alleles showed considerable differences in both externalizing and internalizing problems according to MNA; however, children with one short allele or none showed relatively few differences in behavior problems due to maternal affectivity.
The effect of SLC6A4 polymorphism on child behavior seemed to be moderated by MNA. In addition, the impact of MNA was found to vary based on a child’s genetic risk. High MNA may trigger the risk allele while low MNA causes the risk allele to illicit less behavior problems. Children with two short variants of the SLC6A4 gene may benefit from intervention that modulates MNA.


Gene-environment interaction; SLC6A4 protein; Maternal behavior; Child behavior
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