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Child dopamine active transporter 1 genotype and parenting: Evidence for evocative gene–environment correlations

  • Elizabeth P. Hayden (a1), Brigitte Hanna (a1), Haroon I. Sheikh (a1), Rebecca S. Laptook (a2), Jiyon Kim (a2), Shiva M. Singh (a1) and Daniel N. Klein (a2)...

The dopamine active transporter 1 (DAT1) gene is implicated in psychopathology risk. Although the processes by which this gene exerts its effects on risk are poorly understood, a small body of research suggests that the DAT1 gene influences early emerging negative emotionality, a marker of children's psychopathology risk. As child negative emotionality evokes negative parenting practices, the DAT1 gene may also play a role in gene–environment correlations. To test this model, children (N = 365) were genotyped for the DAT1 gene and participated in standardized parent–child interaction tasks with their primary caregiver. The DAT1 gene 9-repeat variant was associated with child negative affect expressed toward the parent during parent–child interactions, and parents of children with a 9-repeat allele exhibited more hostility and lower guidance/engagement than parents of children without a 9-repeat allele. These gene–environment associations were partially mediated by child negative affect toward the parent. The findings implicate a specific polymorphism in eliciting negative parenting, suggesting that evocative associations play a role in elevating children's risk for emotional trajectories toward psychopathology risk.

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Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Elizabeth Hayden, Department of Psychology, University of Western Ontario, London, ON N6A 3K7, Canada; E-mail:
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Development and Psychopathology
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