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The Dopamine Receptor D4 Gene (DRD4) Moderates Family Environmental Effects on ADHD


Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a prime candidate for exploration of gene-by-environment interaction (i.e., G x E), particularly in relation to dopamine system genes, due to strong evidence that dopamine systems are dysregulated in the disorder. Using a G x E design, we examined whether the DRD4 promoter 120-bp tandem repeat polymorphism, previously associated with ADHD, moderated the effects of inconsistent parenting and marital conflict on ADHD or Oppositional-Defiant Disorder (ODD). Participants were 548 children with ADHD and non-ADHD comparison children and their parents. Homozygosity for the DRD4 promoter 120-bp tandem repeat insertion allele increased vulnerability for ADHD and ODD only in the presence of inconsistent parenting and appeared to increase susceptibility to the influence of increased child self-blame for marital conflict on ADHD inattention. DRD4 genotypes may interact with these proximal family environmental risk factors by increasing the individual’s responsivity to environmental contingencies.

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This research was supported by NIH National Institute of Mental Health Grants R01-MH63146, MH59105, and MH70542. We are indebted to the families and staff who made this study possible.

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Correspondence to Michelle M. Martel.

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Martel, M.M., Nikolas, M., Jernigan, K. et al. The Dopamine Receptor D4 Gene (DRD4) Moderates Family Environmental Effects on ADHD. J Abnorm Child Psychol 39, 1–10 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10802-010-9439-5

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  • Attention
  • ADHD
  • Genetics
  • Environmental effects