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Gene–environment interaction between DRD4 7-repeat VNTR and early child-care experiences predicts self-regulation abilities in prekindergarten



Intervention studies indicate that children's early child-care experiences can be leveraged to foster their development of effective self-regulation skills. It is less clear whether typical child-care experiences play a similar role. In addition, evidence suggests that children with a common variant of the DRD4 gene (48-bp VNTR, 7-repeat) may be more sensitive to their experiences than those without this variant. Using data from the NICHD Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development, we considered the degree to which children's early child-care experiences—quantity, quality, and type—were associated with their attention and self-regulation abilities in prekindergarten, and, in particular, whether these relations were conditional on DRD4 genotype. G × E interactions were evident across multiple neuropsychological and observational measures of children's attention and self-regulation abilities. Across most outcome measures, DRD4 7+ children spending fewer hours in child care showed more effective attention/self-regulation abilities. For those without a copy of the DRD4 7-repeat allele, such associations were typically null. The results for child-care quality and type indicated no interactions with genotype; the main-effect associations were somewhat inconsistent. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Dev Psychobiol 56: 373–391, 2014.