Serotonin functioning and adolescents' alcohol use: A genetically informed study examining mechanisms of risk

Frances L. Wang, Laurie Chassin, John E. Bates, Danielle Dick, Jennifer E. Lansford, Gregory S. Pettit, Kenneth A. Dodge

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The current study used data from two longitudinal samples to test whether self-regulation, depressive symptoms, and aggression/antisociality were mediators in the relation between a polygenic score indexing serotonin (5-HT) functioning and alcohol use in adolescence. The results from an independent genome-wide association study of 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid in the cerebrospinal fluid were used to create 5-HT polygenic risk scores. Adolescents and/or parents reported on adolescents' self-regulation (Time 1), depressive symptoms (Time 2), aggression/antisociality (Time 2), and alcohol use (Time 3). The results showed that 5-HT polygenic risk did not predict self-regulation. However, adolescents with higher levels of 5-HT polygenic risk showed greater depression and aggression/antisociality. Adolescents' aggression/antisociality mediated the relation between 5-HT polygenic risk and later alcohol use. Deficits in self-regulation also predicted depression and aggression/antisociality, and indirectly predicted alcohol use through aggression/antisociality. Pathways to alcohol use were especially salient for males from families with low parental education in one of the two samples. The results provide insights into the longitudinal mechanisms underlying the relation between 5-HT functioning and alcohol use (i.e., earlier aggression/antisociality). There was no evidence that genetically based variation in 5-HT functioning predisposed individuals to deficits in self-regulation. Genetically based variation in 5-HT functioning and self-regulation might be separate, transdiagnostic risk factors for several types of psychopathology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)213-233
Number of pages21
JournalDevelopment and psychopathology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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