• Dopamine D4 receptor;
  • serotonin transporter promoter;
  • infant temperament

This study examined the association between two common polymorphisms, the dopamine D4 receptor (DRD4) gene and the serotonin transporter promoter (5-HTTLPR) gene and temperament in 61 infants aged 12 months. Twenty-two infants had a least one copy of the 6–8 repeat DRD4 alleles (L-DRD4) and 39 had two copies of the 2–5 repeat allele (S-DRD4). Twenty infants were homozygous for the short form (s/s) of 5-HTTLPR while 41 were either heterozygous for the short and the long form (l/s) or were homozygous for the long form (l/l). The infants were observed in a series of standard temperament episodes that elicited fear, anger, pleasure, interest, and activity. L-DRD4 infants showed less interest in a structured block play situation and more activity in a free play situation. They also displayed less anger in an episode of mild physical restraint. Infants with s/s 5-HTTLPR showed less fearful distress to stranger approach and less pleasure in a structured play situation than infants with l/l or l/s 5-HTTLPR. Duration of looking during block play was affected by a significant interaction between DRD4 and 5-HTTLPR. Shortest duration of looking was associated with the L-DRD4 and s/s 5-HTTLPR genotypes. The implications and limitations of these findings are discussed.