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The dopamine D2 receptor gene and depressive and anxious symptoms in childhood: associations and evidence for gene–environment correlation and gene–environment interaction

Hayden, Elizabeth P.; Klein, Daniel N.; Dougherty, Lea R.; Olino, Thomas M.; Laptook, Rebecca S.; Dyson, Margaret W.; Bufferd, Sara J.; Durbin, C. Emily; Sheikh, Haroon I.; Singh, Shiva M.

doi: 10.1097/YPG.0b013e32833adccb
Original Articles

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

Tel: +1 519 661 3686; fax: +1 519 850 2554; e-mail:

Received 18 August 2009 Revised 21 February 2010 Accepted 10 April 2010

© 2010 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.