Serotonin and Self-control: A Genetically Moderated Stress Sensitization Effect

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Purpose: The current study seeks to examine how two widely studied serotonergic polymorphisms, MAOA-uVNTR and 5-HTTLPR, interact with early and later life stressors to explain between-individual variation in low self-control in a genetically moderated stress sensitization model (G × E × E).

Methods: Using a sample of male undergraduate students (n = 190), regression analyses were performed to examine three-way interactions of distal and proximal stress by MAOA-uVNTR and 5-HTTLPR separately, while controlling for age, race, parenting, and peer delinquency.

Results: Results suggest that MAOA-uVNTR and 5-HTTLPR polymorphisms moderate individual stress sensitization in the explanation of self-control.

Conclusion: Our findings highlight the need to study the etiology of self-control from both developmental and biological perspectives by demonstrating that molecular genetic variation related to serotonergic function interacts with distal stressors to increase reactivity to proximal stressors.