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01-08-2010 | Original Article | Uitgave 4/2010

Cognitive Therapy and Research 4/2010

Reports of Childhood Physical Abuse, 5-HTTLPR Genotype, and Women’s Attentional Biases for Angry Faces

Cognitive Therapy and Research > Uitgave 4/2010
Ashley L. Johnson, Brandon E. Gibb, John McGeary


The goal of this study was to examine environmental (childhood physical abuse) and genetic (5-HTTLPR genotype) correlates of adult women’s attentional biases for facial displays of emotion. Supporting a gene × environment model of risk, women’s reports of childhood physical abuse were related to their attentional biases for angry faces among carriers of the 5-HTTLPR short allele, but not among those homozygous for the long allele. Specifically, women reporting a history of moderate to severe physical abuse who also carried at least one copy of the 5-HTTLPR short allele exhibited attentional avoidance of angry faces. These results were specific to angry faces and were not observed for happy or sad faces. Supporting the robustness of these findings, they were maintained even after statistically controlling for the influence of women’s lifetime diagnoses of major depression and anxiety disorders as well as their current symptoms of depression and anxiety, suggesting that the results were not due simply to current or past depression or anxiety.

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