Genetic contributions to continuity and change in attachment security: a prospective, longitudinal investigation from infancy to young adulthood.J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2013 Nov; 54(11):1223-30.JC
Longitudinal research has demonstrated that individual differences in attachment security show only modest continuity from infancy to adulthood. Recent findings based on retrospective reports suggest that individuals' genetic variation may moderate the developmental associations between early attachment-relevant relationship experiences and adult attachment security. The purpose of this study was to use a prospective, longitudinal design to investigate genetic contributions to continuity and changes in attachment security from infancy to young adulthood in a higher risk sample.
Infant attachment security was assessed using the Strange Situation Procedure at 12 and 18 months. Adults' general attachment representations were assessed using the Adult Attachment Interview at ages 19 and 26. Romantic attachment representations were assessed with the Current Relationship Interview (CRI) at ages 20-21 and ages 26-28. Individuals were genotyped for variants within the oxytocin receptor (OXTR), dopamine D4 receptor (DRD4), and serotonin transporter linked polymorphic region (5-HTTLPR).
The continuity of attachment security from infancy into young adulthood was consistently moderated by OXTR genetic variation. Infant attachment security predicted the security of adults' general and romantic attachment representations only for individuals with the OXTR G/G genotype. This interaction was significant when predicting adult attachment security as measured by the Adult Attachment Interview at ages 19 and 26 and the CRI at ages 26-28. Dopamine D4 receptor and 5-HTTLPR genetic variation did not consistently moderate the longitudinal associations between attachment security during infancy and adulthood.
This study provides initial longitudinal evidence for genetic contributions to continuity and change in attachment security from infancy to young adulthood. Genetic variation related to the oxytocin system may moderate the stability of attachment security across development.