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Gene × Environment interaction and resilience: Effects of child maltreatment and serotonin, corticotropin releasing hormone, dopamine, and oxytocin genes

  • Dante Cicchetti (a1) (a2) and Fred A. Rogosch (a2)

In this investigation, gene–environment interaction effects in predicting resilience in adaptive functioning among maltreated and nonmaltreated low-income children (N = 595) were examined. A multicomponent index of resilient functioning was derived and levels of resilient functioning were identified. Variants in four genes (serotonin transporter linked polymorphic region, corticotropin releasing hormone receptor 1, dopamine receptor D4–521C/T, and oxytocin receptor) were investigated. In a series of analyses of covariance, child maltreatment demonstrated a strong negative main effect on children's resilient functioning, whereas no main effects for any of the genotypes of the respective genes were found. However, gene–environment interactions involving genotypes of each of the respective genes and maltreatment status were obtained. For each respective gene, among children with a specific genotype, the relative advantage in resilient functioning of nonmaltreated compared to maltreated children was stronger than was the case for nonmaltreated and maltreated children with other genotypes of the respective gene. Across the four genes, a composite of the genotypes that more strongly differentiated resilient functioning between nonmaltreated and maltreated children provided further evidence of genetic variations influencing resilient functioning in nonmaltreated children, whereas genetic variation had a negligible effect on promoting resilience among maltreated children. Additional effects were observed for children based on the number of subtypes of maltreatment children experienced, as well as for abuse and neglect subgroups. Finally, maltreated and nonmaltreated children with high levels of resilience differed in their average number of differentiating genotypes. These results suggest that differential resilient outcomes are based on the interaction between genes and developmental experiences.

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Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Dante Cicchetti, Institute of Child Development, University of Minnesota, 51 East River Road, Minneapolis, MN 55455; E-mail:
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