Dopamine Receptor Gene DRD4 7-Repeat Allele X Maternal Sensitivity Interaction on Child Externalizing Behavior Problems: Independent Replication of Effects at 18 Months.
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The DRD4 VNTR has been associated with child behavior problems in interaction with maternal insensitivity in European and American cohorts of preschoolers, with the 7-repeat (7R) allele associated with greater problems. We sought to replicate and expand these findings by examining effects on reports of child behavior problems at 18 months. A 63 family sample with data for observed maternal sensitivity ratings, DRD4 VNTR genotype, and maternal report of child behavior problems at 18-months was used in this preliminary analysis. Maternal sensitivity was measured at 6-months of age using laboratory observational measures (free-play and a teaching task). Maternal report of toddler behavior was obtained at 18-months via the standard Child Behavior Checklist, and infant genotype on the DRD4 VNTR was obtained using PCR. Infants carrying the DRD4 7R allele showed greater effects of maternal insensitivity than non-carriers for behavioral problems at 18-months. We replicated previous findings of association of infant DRD4 x maternal sensitivity interactions with child Externalizing problems in the European-ancestry sample (N = 42) in a median split of maternal sensitivity (p = .00011, eta2 = .329) and in regression analyses controlling for maternal age, maternal depression, and child gender in European ancestry (B = -3.4, SE 1.33, p = .01) and the total sample (B = -2.2, SE 1.02, p = .02). Exploratory analyses also found evidence of DRD4 x maternal sensitivity interaction with the CBCL ADHD scale. These findings replicate in an independent cohort DRD4 x maternal insensitivity interaction effect on child externalizing behavior problems at 18 months, further supporting the role of the DRD4 genotype in differential sensitivity to parenting.