Variation in the μ-opioid receptor gene (OPRM1) moderates the influence of early maternal care on fearful attachment

Alfonso Troisi, Giovanni Frazzetto, Valeria Carola, Giorgio Di Lorenzo, Mariangela Coviello, Alberto Siracusano, Cornelius Gross

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


There is evidence that both early experience and genetic variation play a role in influencing sensitivity to social rejection. In this study, we aimed at ascertaining if the A118G polymorphism of the μ-opioid receptor gene (OPRM1) moderates the impact of early maternal care on fearful attachment, a personality trait strongly related to rejection sensitivity. In 112 psychiatric patients, early maternal care and fearful attachment were measured using the Parental Bonding Inventory and the Relationship Questionnaire (RQ), respectively. The pattern emerging from the RQ data was a crossover interaction between genotype and maternal caregiving. Participants expressing the minor 118 G allele had similar and relatively high scores on fearful attachment regardless of the quality of maternal care. By contrast, early experience made a major difference for participants carrying the A/A genotype. Those who recalled higher levels of maternal care reported the lowest levels of fearful attachment whereas those who recalled lower levels of maternal care scored highest on fearful attachment. Our data fit well with the differential susceptibility model which stipulates that plasticity genes would make some individuals more responsive than others to the negative consequences of adversity and to the benefits of environmental support and enrichment.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbernsr037
Pages (from-to)542-547
Number of pages6
JournalSocial Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2012


  • Fearful attachment
  • Maternal care
  • OPRM1 gene
  • Rejection sensitivity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


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