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Mitigating aggressiveness through education? The monoamine oxidase A genotype and mental health in general population

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 July 2013

Evelyn Kiive*
Department of Psychology, Estonian Centre of Behavioural and Health Sciences, University of Tartu, Tiigi 78, Tartu 50410, Estonia
Kariina Laas
Department of Psychology, Estonian Centre of Behavioural and Health Sciences, University of Tartu, Tiigi 78, Tartu 50410, Estonia
Kirsti Akkermann
Department of Psychology, Estonian Centre of Behavioural and Health Sciences, University of Tartu, Tiigi 78, Tartu 50410, Estonia
Erika Comasco
Department of Psychology, Estonian Centre of Behavioural and Health Sciences, University of Tartu, Tiigi 78, Tartu 50410, Estonia
Lars Oreland
Department of Psychology, Estonian Centre of Behavioural and Health Sciences, University of Tartu, Tiigi 78, Tartu 50410, Estonia
Toomas Veidebaum
Department of Psychology, Estonian Centre of Behavioural and Health Sciences, University of Tartu, Tiigi 78, Tartu 50410, Estonia
Jaanus Harro
Department of Psychology, Estonian Centre of Behavioural and Health Sciences, University of Tartu, Tiigi 78, Tartu 50410, Estonia
Evelyn Kiive, Department of Psychology, University of Tartu, Tiigi 78, Tartu 50410, Estonia. Tel: +372 7 375 908; Fax: +372 7 375 900; E-mail:



Monoamine oxidase A (MAOA) gene promoter region includes a variable number of tandem repeat (VNTR) associated with antisocial behaviour in adverse environment. We have examined the effect of the MAOA-uVNTR on mental health and academic success by using a population representative sample and a longitudinal design.


The data of the older cohort (n = 593, aged 15 years at the original sampling) of the longitudinal Estonian Children Personality, Behaviour and Health Study (ECPBHS) were used. Follow-ups were conducted at ages 18 and 25 years. Aggressiveness, inattention and hyperactivity were reported by class teachers or, at older age, self-reported. Stressful life events, psychological environment in the family and interactions between family members were self-reported. Data of general mental abilities and education were obtained at the age of 25, and lifetime psychiatric disorder assessment was carried out with the Mini-International Neuropsychiatric Interview (MINI) interview.


MAOA-uVNTR genotype had no independent effect on aggressiveness, hyperactive and inattentive symptoms, and neither was there a genotype interaction with adverse life events. Interestingly, the proportion of male subjects with higher education by the age of 25 was significantly larger among those with MAOA low-activity alleles (χ2 = 7.13; p = 0.008). Logistic regression revealed that MAOA low-activity alleles, higher mental abilities, occurrence of anxiety disorders and absence of substance-use disorder were significant independent predictors for higher education in male subjects.


In a population representative sample of young subjects, the MAOA-uVNTR ‘risk genotype’ predicted better life outcomes as expressed in higher level of education.

Original Articles
Copyright © Scandinavian College of Neuropsychopharmacology 2013 

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