Development and Psychopathology

Regular Articles

Interaction of serotonin transporter linked polymorphic region and childhood neglect on criminal behavior and substance use for males and females

Jamie Vaskea1 c1, Jamie Newsomea2 and John Paul Wrighta2

a1 Western Carolina University

a2 University of Cincinnati


Childhood neglect has been cited as a risk factor for later substance abuse and criminal behavior. However, a large body of literature shows that a substantial percentage of neglected and abused individuals do not go on to abuse substances or engage in criminal behavior. The current study investigates whether a genetic variant (serotonin transporter linked polymorphic region [5-HTTLPR]) in the 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HTT) gene moderates the effect of childhood neglect on alcohol use problems, marijuana use, and criminal behavior. Data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health shows that 5-HTTLPR conditions the effect of neglect on marijuana use for females, but not for males. Findings also reveal a significant gene–environment correlation between 5-HTTLPR and neglect for females only. These results suggest that 5-HTTLPR is associated with an increased risk of neglect for females, and it also increases neglected females’ risk of abusing marijuana.

(Online publication January 31 2012)


c1 Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Jamie Vaske, Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Western Carolina University, 410 A Belk, Cullowhee, NC 28723; E-mail:


We thank the editor and anonymous reviewers for their comments and suggestions. This research uses data from Add Health, a program project designed by J. Richard Udry, Peter S. Bearman, and Kathleen Mullan Harris and funded by Grant P01-HD31921 from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, with cooperative funding from 17 other agencies. A special acknowledgment to Ronald R. Rindfuss and Barbara Entwisle for assistance in the original design. Persons interested in obtaining data files from Add Health should contact Add Health, Carolina Population Center, 123 West Franklin Street, Chapel Hill, NC 27516-2524 ( No direct support was received from Grant P01-HD31921 for this analysis. The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.