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Predicting childhood effortful control from interactions between early parenting quality and children's dopamine transporter gene haplotypes

  • Yi Li (a1), Michael J. Sulik (a1), Nancy Eisenberg (a1), Tracy L. Spinrad (a1), Kathryn Lemery-Chalfant (a1), Daryn A. Stover (a1) and Brian C. Verrelli (a2)...


Children's observed effortful control (EC) at 30, 42, and 54 months (n = 145) was predicted from the interaction between mothers' observed parenting with their 30-month-olds and three variants of the solute carrier family C6, member 3 (SLC6A3) dopamine transporter gene (single nucleotide polymorphisms in intron8 and intron13, and a 40 base pair variable number tandem repeat [VNTR] in the 3′-untranslated region [UTR]), as well as haplotypes of these variants. Significant moderating effects were found. Children without the intron8-A/intron13-G, intron8-A/3′-UTR VNTR-10, or intron13-G/3′-UTR VNTR-10 haplotypes (i.e., haplotypes associated with the reduced SLC6A3 gene expression and thus lower dopamine functioning) appeared to demonstrate altered levels of EC as a function of maternal parenting quality, whereas children with these haplotypes demonstrated a similar EC level regardless of the parenting quality. Children with these haplotypes demonstrated a trade-off, such that they showed higher EC, relative to their counterparts without these haplotypes, when exposed to less supportive maternal parenting. The findings revealed a diathesis–stress pattern and suggested that different SLC6A3 haplotypes, but not single variants, might represent different levels of young children's sensitivity/responsivity to early parenting.


Corresponding author

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Nancy Eisenberg, Department of Psychology, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287-1104; E-mail:


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