Objectives: Research implicates the A1 allele of the dopamine D2 receptor gene (DRD2) Taq1A polymorphism in the development of depression and anxiety. Furthermore, recent papers suggest that children with A1 allele of this gene may receive less positive parenting, and that the effects of this gene on child symptoms may be moderated by parenting. We sought to replicate and extend these findings using behavioral measures in a nonclinical sample of young children.
Methods: In a sample of 473 preschool-aged children and their mothers, structured clinical interview measures and maternal reports of child symptoms were collected, and standardized observations of parent–child interactions were conducted.
Results: An association was detected between the DRD2 A1 allele and symptoms of depression and anxiety indexed using interview and parent report methods. As found in previous reports, children with the DRD2 A1 allele received less supportive parenting and displayed higher levels of negative emotionality during parent–child interactions. Tests of mediation and moderation were conducted.
Conclusion: We found associations between the DRD2 A1 allele and early-emerging anxious and depressive symptoms in a community sample of preschool-aged children, and evidence of a gene–environment correlation and moderation of the main effect of child genotype on child symptoms by parenting.
Department of Psychology, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada
Correspondence to Elizabeth Hayden, PhD, Department of Psychology, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario N6A 3K7, Canada
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Received 18 August 2009 Revised 21 February 2010 Accepted 10 April 2010