Genetic and gene-environment interaction effects on preschoolers' social behaviors

Lisabeth Fisher DiLalla, Kit K. Elam, Andrew Smolen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


This study examined effects from a specific dopamine receptor gene (DRD4), environmental influences from parents and peers, and the interaction between them, on aggressive and prosocial behaviors of preschoolers. Children were classified as DRD4-L (n=27) if they had at least one DRD4 allele with six to eight repeats and as DRD4-S (n=35) if not. Parent-child interactions were coded when children were 3-4 years old. Peer interaction data and parent questionnaires were collected at age 5. DRD4-L children shared less with each other and parents were less sensitive during parent-twin triadic interactions. Also, genotype interacted with peer aggression to affect children's aggression during a peer play interaction at age 5, and genotype interacted with prior parental sensitivity to affect later externalizing problems. Thus, children having a certain genetic disposition may be more sensitive to certain environmental stimuli and therefore more likely to exhibit aggressive behaviors under more stressful circumstances.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)451-464
Number of pages14
JournalDevelopmental psychobiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Aggression
  • DRD4
  • Parental environment
  • Preschoolers
  • Prosocial

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Developmental Biology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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