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Front Psychol. 2015 Aug 11;6:1133. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01133. eCollection 2015.

The moderating role of an oxytocin receptor gene polymorphism in the relation between unsupportive social interactions and coping profiles: implications for depression.

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Department of Neuroscience, Carleton University Ottawa, ON, Canada.
Department of Health Sciences, Carleton University Ottawa, ON, Canada.


Oxytocin is a hormone that is thought to influence prosocial behaviors and may be important in modulating responses to both positive and negative social interactions. Indeed, a single nucleotide polymorphism, rs53576, of the oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR) has been associated with decreased trust, empathy, optimism, and social support seeking, which are important components of coping with stressors. In the current study, conducted among undergraduate students (N = 225), it was shown that parental and peer social support was related to fewer depressive symptoms through elevated problem-focused coping and lower emotion-focused coping, and these effects were independent of the OXTR polymorphism. Unsupportive social interactions from parents were associated with more severe depressive symptoms through the greater use of emotion-focused coping, and this relation was moderated by the OXTR genotype. Specifically, individuals who carried the polymorphism on one or both of their alleles demonstrated increased emotion-focused coping following unsupportive responses compared to those without the polymorphism. Likewise, lower problem-focused coping mediated the relation between parental and peer unsupportive responses to depressive symptoms, but this mediated relation was only evident among carriers of the polymorphism. These findings suggest that carrying this OXTR polymorphism might favor disadvantageous coping styles in the face of negative social interactions, which in turn are linked to poor mood. Regardless of genotype, parental, and peer social support are fundamental in determining stress-related coping and well-being.


coping; depression; oxytocin; polymorphism; social interaction; social support

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