Children’s 5-HTTLPR genotype moderates the link between maternal criticism and attentional biases specifically for facial displays of angeredit
Theorists have proposed that negative experiences in childhood may contribute to the development of experience-specific information-processing biases, including attentional biases. There are also clear genetic influences on cognitive processes, with evidence that polymorphisms in specific candidate genes may moderate the impact of environmental stress on attentional biases (e.g., a functional polymorphism in the serotonin transporter gene; 5-HTTLPR). In the current study, we tested a gene×environment (G×E) model of risk for attentional biases. We hypothesised that children whose mothers exhibit high levels of expressed emotion criticism (EE-Crit) would display attentional biases specifically for angry, but not happy or sad, faces, and that this link would be stronger among children carrying one or two copies of the 5-HTTLPR short allele than among those homozygous for the long allele. Results generally supported these hypotheses, though we found that carriers of the 5-HTTLPR short allele who also had a critical mother exhibited attentional avoidance of angry faces rather than preferential attention.