Exploring the interplay of dopaminergic genotype and parental behavior in relation to executive function in early childhood

Daphne M. Vrantsidis*, Caron A.C. Clark, Auriele Volk, Lauren S. Wakschlag, Kimberly Andrews Espy, Sandra A. Wiebe

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Child genotype is an important biologically based individual difference conferring differential sensitivity to the effect of parental behavior. This study explored dopaminergic polygenic composite × parental behavior interactions in relation to young children's executive function. Participants were 135 36-month-old children and their mothers drawn from a prospective cohort followed longitudinally from pregnancy. A polygenic composite was created based on the number of COMT, DAT1, DRD2, and DRD4 alleles associated with increased reward sensitivity children carried. Maternal negative reactivity and responsiveness were coded during a series of structured mother-child interactions. Executive function was operationalized as self-control and working memory/inhibitory control. Path analysis supported a polygenic composite by negative reactivity interaction for self-control. The nature of the interaction was one of diathesis-stress, such that higher negative reactivity was associated with poorer self-control for children with higher polygenic composite scores. This result suggests that children with a higher number of alleles may be more vulnerable to the negative effect of negative reactivity. Negative reactivity may increase the risk for developing behavior problems in this population via an association with poorer self-control. Due to the small sample size, these initial findings should be treated with caution until they are replicated in a larger independent sample.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalDevelopment and psychopathology
StateAccepted/In press - 2021


  • Keywords:
  • dopamine
  • early childhood
  • executive function
  • gene-environment interaction
  • parenting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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