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Oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR) in relation to loneliness in adolescence: interactions with sex, parental support, and DRD2 and 5-HTTLPR genotypes

van Roekel, Eeskea; Verhagen, Maaikea; Engels, Rutger C.M.E.a; Goossens, Lucb; Scholte, Ron H.J.a

doi: 10.1097/YPG.0b013e328363f631
Original Articles

Background: Recent research has shown that loneliness, a common problem in adolescence, may have a genetic basis. The evidence, though, was limited mostly to serotonin-related and dopamine-related genes. In the present study, we focused on the oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR).

Methods: Associations were examined in a longitudinal study spanning five annual waves (N=307). The relations between OXTR and loneliness were examined, as well as interactions between OXTR and sex, parental support, 5-HTTLPR genotype, and DRD2 genotype.

Results: Using Latent Growth Curve Modeling, the OXTR genotype was not directly related to loneliness. An OXTR×sex interaction was found. Girls showed a steeper decline in loneliness when they had an A allele compared with girls who were homozygous for the G allele. In addition, a gene–gene interaction or epistasis was observed. Both boys and girls who had at least one A1 allele for the DRD2 gene and also had the GG genotype for the OXTR gene showed stable levels of loneliness over time.

Conclusion: The present study is the first to show that the GG genotype for the OXTR gene is linked to the development of loneliness in adolescence and that this association is moderated by participants’ sex and their genotype for a dopamine-related gene.

aBehavioural Science Institute, Radboud University Nijmegen, Nijmegen, The Netherlands

bResearch Group School Psychology and Child and Adolescent Development, KULeuven – University of Leuven, Leuven, Belgium

Correspondence to Eeske van Roekel, MSc, Behavioural Science Institute, Radboud University Nijmegen, PO Box 9104, 6500 HE Nijmegen, The Netherlands Tel: +31 24 3612803; fax: +31 24 3612776; e-mail:

Received March 22, 2012

Accepted December 16, 2012

© 2013 Wolters Kluwer Health | Lippincott Williams & Wilkins