Hostname: page-component-8448b6f56d-gtxcr Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-04-15T06:42:51.333Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Parenting quality interacts with genetic variation in dopamine receptor D4 to influence temperament in early childhood

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 October 2007

Brad E. Sheese
University of Oregon
Pascale M. Voelker
University of Oregon
Mary K. Rothbart
University of Oregon
Michael I. Posner*
University of Oregon
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Michael I. Posner, Department of Psychology, 209 Straub Hall, 1227, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR 99403-1227; E-mail:


We examined the influence of a common allelic variation in the dopamine receptor D4 (DRD4) gene and caregiver quality on temperament in early childhood. Children 18–21 months of age were genotyped for the DRD4 48 base pair tandem repeat polymorphism, which has been implicated in the development of attention, sensation seeking, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. The children also interacted with their caregiver for 10 min in a laboratory setting, and these videotaped interactions were coded for parenting quality using an observational rating procedure. The presence of the DRD4 7-repeat allele was associated with differences in the influence of parenting on a measure of temperamental sensation seeking constructed from caregiver reports on children's activity level, impulsivity, and high-intensity pleasure. Children with the 7-repeat allele were influenced by parenting quality, with lower quality parenting associated with higher levels of sensation seeking; children without the 7-repeat allele were uninfluenced by parenting quality. Differences between alleles were not related to the child's self-regulation as assessed by the effortful control measure. Previous studies have indicated that the 7-repeat allele is under positive selective pressure, and our results are consistent with the hypothesis that the DRD4 7-repeat allele increased children's sensitivity to environmental factors such as parenting. This study shows that genes influence the relation between parenting and temperament in ways that are important to normal development and psychopathology.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2007

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Ahadi, S. A., Rothbart, M. K., & Ye, R. (1993). Children's temperament in the U.S. and China: Similarities and differences. European Journal of Personality, 7, 359377.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Auerbach, J. G., Faroy, M., Ebstein, R., Kahana, M., & Levine, J. (2001). The association of the dopamine D4 receptor gene (DRD4) and the serotonin transporter promotor gene (5 HTTL-PR) with temperament in 12-month-old infants. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines, 42, 777783.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bailey, J. N., Breidenthal, S. E., Jorgensen, M. J., McCracken, J. T., & Fairbanks, L. A. (2007). The association of DRD4 and novelty seeking is found in a nonhuman primate model. Psychiatric Genetics, 17, 2327.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bakermans-Kranenburg, M. J., & van IJzendoorn, M. H. (2006). Gene–environment interaction of the dopamine D4 receptor (DRD4) and observed maternal insensitivity predicting externalizing behavior in preschoolers. Developmental Psychobiology, 48, 406409.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Caspi, A., McClay, J., Moffitt, T. E., Mill, J., Martin, J., Craig, I. W., et al. (2002). Role of genotype in the cycle of violence in maltreated children. Science, 297, 851854.Google Scholar
Caspi, A., Moffitt, T. E., Cannon, M., McClay, J., Murray, R., Harrington, H., et al. (2005). Moderation of the effect of adolescent-onset cannabis use on adult psychosis by a functional polymorphism in the COMT gene: Longitudinal evience of a Gene × Environment interaction. Biological Psychiatry, 57, 11171127.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Caspi, A., Sugden, K., Moffitt, T. E., Taylor, A., Craig, I. W., Harrington, H., et al. (2003). Influence of life stress on depression: Moderation by a polymorphism in the 5-HTT gene. Science, 301, 386389.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Cicchetti, D., & Toth, S. L. (1998). Perspectives on research and practice in developmental psychopathology. In Damon, W. (Ed.), Handbook of child psychology (5th ed., Vol. 4, pp. 479583). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
DeYoung, C. G., Peterson, J. B., Seguin, J. R., Meja, J. M., Pihl, R. O., Beitchman, J. H., et al. (2006). The dopamine D4 receptor gene and moderation of the association between externalizing behavior and IQ. Archives of General Psychiatry, 63, 14101416.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Ding, Y. C., Chi, H. C., Grady, D. L., Morishima, A., Kidd, J. R., Kidd, K. K., et al. (2002). Evidence of positive selection acting at the human dopamine receptor D4 gene locus. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, 99, 309314.Google Scholar
Egeland, B., & Hiester, M. (1993). Teaching task rating scales. University of Minnesota, Institute of Child Development.Google Scholar
Fossella, J., Sommer, T., Fan, J., Wu, Y., Swanson, J. M., Pfaff, D. W., et al. (2002). Assessing the molecular genetics of attention networks. BioMed Central Neuroscience, 3, 14.Google Scholar
Grandy, D. K., & Kruzich, P. J. (2004). A molecular genetic approach to the neurobiology of attenton utilizing dopamine receptor-deficient mice. In Posner, M. I. (Ed.), Cognitive neuroscience of attention (pp. 260268). New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
Harpending, H., & Cochran, G. (2002). In our genes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, 99, 1012.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Laucht, M., Becker, J., & Schmidt, M. H. (2006). Visual exploratory behaviour in infancy and novelty seeking in adolescence: Two developmentally specific phenotypes of ADHD. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 47, 11431151.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Livak, K. J., Rogers, J., & Lichter, J. B. (1995). Variability of dopamine D4 receptor (DRD4) gene sequence within and among nonhuman primate species. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the USA, 92, 427431.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
NICHD Early Child Care Research Network. (1993). The NICHD Study of Early Child Care: A comprehensive longitudinal study of young children's lives (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED3530870). Washington, DC: Author.Google Scholar
Posner, M. I., Rothbart, M. K., & Sheese, B. E. (2007). Attention genes. Developmental Science, 10, 2429.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Putnam, S. P., Gartstein, M. A., & Rothbart, M. K. (2006). Measurement of fine-grained aspects of toddler temperament: The Early Childhood Behavior Questionnaire. Infant Behavior and Development, 29, 386401.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Rothbart, M. K., & Posner, M. I. (2006). Temperament, attention, and developmental psychopathology. In Cicchetti, D. (Ed.), Developmental psychopathology (2nd ed., Vol. 2, pp. 465501). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
Rothbart, M. K., & Rueda, M. R. (2005). The development of effortful control. In Mayr, U., Awh, E., & Keele, S. W. (Eds.), Developing individuality in the human brain: A tribute to Michael I. Posner (pp. 167188). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.Google Scholar
Rothbart, M. K., Sheese, B. E., & Posner, M. I. (in press). Executive attention and effortful control: Linking temperament, brain networks and genes. Perspectives in Developmental Psychology.Google Scholar
Rueda, M. R., Rothbart, M. K., McCandliss, B. D., Saccamanno, L., & Posner, M. I. (2005). Training, maturation and genetic influences on the development of executive attention. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, 102, 1493114936.Google Scholar
Rutter, M. (2007). Gene–environment interdependence. Developmental Science, 10, 1218.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Sheese, B. E., Rothbart, M. K., Posner, M. I., White, L. K., & Fraundorf, S. H. (2007). Executive attention and self-regulation in infancy. Manuscript submitted for publication.Google Scholar
Swanson, J., Flodman, P., Kennedy, J., Spence, M. A., Moyzis, R., Schuck, S., et al. (2000). Dopamine genes and ADHD. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 24, 2125.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Swanson, J., Oosterlaan, J., Murias, M., Schuck, S., Flodman, P., et al. (2000). ADHD children with 7-repeat allele of the DRD4 gene have extreme behavior but normal performance on critical neuropsychological tests of attention. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, 97, 47544759.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
van IJzendoorn, M. H., & Bakermans-Kranenburg, M. J. (2006). DRD4 7-repeat polymorphism moderates the association between maternal unresolved loss or trauma and infant disorganization. Attachment and Human Development, 8, 291307.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Wang, E. T., Ding, Y.-C., Flodman, P., Kidd, J. R., Kidd, K. K., Grady, D. L., et al. (2004). The genetic architecture of selection at the human dopamine receptor D4 (DRD4) gene locus. The American Journal of Human Genetics, 74, 931944.Google Scholar
Wang, E. T., Kodama, G., Baldi, P., & Moyzis, R. K. (2006). Global landscape of recent inferred Darwinan selection for Homo sapiens. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the USA, 103, 135140.Google Scholar