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Oxytocin is a pituitary neuropeptide that affects social behaviour. Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR) have been shown to explain some variability in social abilities in control populations. Whether these variants similarly contribute to the severity of social deficits experienced by children with neurodevelopmental disorders is unclear. Social abilities were assessed in a group of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD, n = 341) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD, n = 276) using two established social measures. Scores were compared by OXTR genotype (rs53576, rs237887, rs13316193, rs2254298). Unexpectedly, the two most frequently studied OXTR SNPs in the general population (rs53576 and rs2254298) were associated with an increased severity of social deficits in ASD (p < 0.0001 and p = 0.0005), yet fewer social deficits in ADHD (p = 0.007 and p < 0.0001). We conclude that these genetic modifier alleles are not inherently risk-conferring with respect to their impact on social abilities; molecular investigations are greatly needed.

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Adolescent, Alleles, Child, Child, Preschool, Female, Gene Frequency, Genetic Association Studies, Genetic Predisposition to Disease, Genotype, Humans, Male, Neurodevelopmental Disorders, Phenotype, Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide, Receptors, Oxytocin, Social Skills, Young Adult