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Effects of divorce on Dutch boys' and girls' externalizing behavior in Gene × Environment perspective: Diathesis stress or differential susceptibility in the Dutch Tracking Adolescents' Individual Lives Survey study?

  • Esther Nederhof (a1), Jay Belsky (a2) (a3) (a4), Johan Ormel (a1) and Albertine J. Oldehinkel (a1)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 11 July 2012

The effects of divorce on children's behavioral development have proven to be quite varied across studies, and most developmental and family scholars today appreciate the great heterogeneity in divorce effects. Thus, this inquiry sought to determine whether select dopaminergic genes previously associated with externalizing behavior and/or found to moderate diverse environmental effects (dopamine receptors D2 and D4, catechol-O-methyltransferase) might moderate divorce effects on adolescent self-reported externalizing problems; and, if so, whether evidence of gene–environment (G × E) interaction would prove consistent with diathesis–stress or differential-susceptibility models of environmental action. Data from the first and third wave of the Dutch Tracking Adolescents' Individual Lives Survey (n = 1,134) revealed some evidence of G × E interaction reflecting diathesis–stress but not differential susceptibility. It is intriguing that some evidence pointed to “vantage sensitivity,” which are benefits accruing to those with a specific genotype when their parents remained together, the exact opposite of diathesis–stress. The limits of this work are considered, especially with regard to the conditions for testing differential susceptibility, and future directions are outlined.

Corresponding author
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Jay Belsky, Human and Community Development, University of California, Davis, One Shields Avenue, Hart Hall, Davis, CA 95616; E-mail:
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