Early social experiences and later psychopathology: The role of OXTR rs53576 genotype

Rosa Sze Man WONG, Keith TS TUNG, Dicky YT CHAN, Hing Wai TSANG, Patrick IP

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlespeer-review


Although previous research has established a link between the variant rs53576 of the oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR) and social behaviors, our understanding of its long-term impact on mental health from early childhood to adolescence remains limited. This study aimed to explore the potential link between children’s involvement in recreational activities with parents during early childhood, their OXTR rs53576 genotype, and the subsequent development of psychopathology. It involved gathering data during three different stages: early childhood (T1), middle childhood (T2), and adolescence (T3). During T1, the parents of 144 Chinese participants aged 4 to 6 years (48.6% boys) completed a scale on frequency of parent-child recreational activities. Three years later (T2), parents were re-surveyed about the participant’s conduct problems, which was assessed using the Strength and Difficulties Questionnaire. Seven years later (T3), the participants completed the Depression scale of the Depression Anxiety and Stress Scale – 21 to evaluate their levels of depressive symptoms. Additionally, buccal swab samples were collected and genotyped for OXTR rs53576. OXTR rs53576 genotypes were found to interact with the frequency of parent-child recreational activities to predict future conduct problems (β=-1.38, p = 0.028). Increased conduct problems were in turn associated with a higher level of subsequent depressive symptoms during adolescence (r = 0.22, p < 0.05). Engaging in recreational activities with parents during early childhood is important for the overall well-being of children, particularly for those who demonstrate a tendency of being sociable. Early childhood interventions should educate and assist parents in designing unstructured play based on their young children’s sociability. Copyright © 2023 The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.

Original languageEnglish
JournalCurrent Psychology
Early online dateDec 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - Dec 2023


Wong, R. S., Tung, K. T. S., Chan, D. Y. T., Tsang, H. W., & Ip, P. (2023). Early social experiences and later psychopathology: The role of OXTR rs53576 genotype. Current Psychology. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12144-023-05554-5


  • Gene x environment interaction
  • Oxytocin receptor gene
  • Sociality
  • Conduct problems
  • Depressive symptoms


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