Oxytocin and parent-child interaction in the development of empathy among children at risk for autism

Nicole M. McDonald, Jason K. Baker, Daniel S Messinger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

20 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

This longitudinal study investigated whether variation in the oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR) and early parent-child interactions predicted later empathic behavior in 84 toddlers at high or low familial risk for autism spectrum disorder. Two well-studied OXTR single-nucleotide polymorphisms, rs53576 and rs2254298, were examined. Parent-child interaction was measured at 15 and 18 months of age during free play sessions. Empathy was measured at 24 and 30 months using a response to parental distress paradigm. While there was no direct association between parent-child interaction quality or OXTR and empathy, rs53576 moderated the relation between interaction quality and empathy. Results suggest that the interplay between OXTR and early parent-child interactions predicts individual differences in empathy in children at varying risk for atypical social development. Findings are consonant with a differential susceptibility model in which an OXTR variant may increase the social salience of interaction processes for specific allele carriers. These results increase our understanding of predictors of empathy development in young children with a wide range of social outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)735-745
Number of pages11
JournalDevelopmental Psychology
Volume52
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - May 1 2016

Fingerprint

Oxytocin Receptors
Oxytocin
Autistic Disorder
autism
empathy
parents
interaction
Genes
Interpersonal Relations
Individuality
social development
Single Nucleotide Polymorphism
Longitudinal Studies
longitudinal study
Alleles
paradigm

Keywords

  • Autism risk
  • Empathy
  • Oxytocin receptor gene
  • Parent-child interaction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies
  • Demography

Cite this

Oxytocin and parent-child interaction in the development of empathy among children at risk for autism. / McDonald, Nicole M.; Baker, Jason K.; Messinger, Daniel S.

In: Developmental Psychology, Vol. 52, No. 5, 01.05.2016, p. 735-745.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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