Infancy onset maltreatment and the development of suicide ideation: An investigation of moderation by oxytocin-related gene polymorphisms

Elizabeth D. Handley, Jennifer M. Warmingham, Fred A. Rogosch, D. Cicchetti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Background: Suicide ideation and behavior remains a significant public policy concern. The interpersonal-psychological theory of suicide posits that thwarted belongingness potentiates risk for suicide. Early disruptions in caregiving have documented effects on lifespan social and interpersonal development, and therefore warrants further investigation in suicide research. This novel study investigates risk for suicide ideation conferred by infant-onset child maltreatment and oxytocin genotypes (OXTR and CD38) and tests interactive effects of genetics and early maltreatment experiences. Methods: Participants (N = 251) were from a longitudinal follow-up study of emerging adults who participated in a research summer camp program as children (wave 1). Childhood maltreatment was coded from child protective service records and buccal cells were obtained from children and genotyped. At wave 2, self-reported suicide ideation and internalizing symptomatology were obtained. Results: Maltreatment onset in infancy was significantly related to lifetime suicide ideation. The CD38 gene variation moderated this association such that early onset maltreatment was related to suicide ideation among C-carriers only. The OXTR gene did not relate to lifetime suicide ideation, nor did it moderate early onset maltreatment risk. Limitations: This study was conducted with a relatively small sample, necessitating the combination of genotypes into binary groups. Replication is necessary. Conclusions: Child maltreatment experienced early in development confers significant risk for lifetime suicide ideation. Furthermore, greater risk for suicide ideation was present for those with specific oxytocin genotypes. These findings further emphasize the importance of preventive interventions aimed at decreasing the incidence of maltreatment and increasing support for high risk families.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)421-427
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
StatePublished - Oct 1 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding for this study was provided by the Jacobs Foundation (to Dante Cicchetti) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse ( R01-DA01774 to Fred A. Rogosch and Dante Cicchetti).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019


  • CD38
  • Child maltreatment
  • OXTR
  • Oxytocin
  • Polymorphism
  • Suicide ideation


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