The role of parenting and dopamine D4 receptor gene polymorphisms in children's inhibitory control


Address for correspondence: Heather Smith, University of Western Ontario, Department of Psychology, Westminster Hall, London, Ontario, Canada, N6A 3K7; e-mail:


Temperamental effortful control has important implications for children's development. Although genetic factors and parenting may influence effortful control, few studies have examined interplay between the two in predicting its development. The current study investigated associations between parenting and a facet of children's effortful control, inhibitory control (IC), and whether these associations were moderated by whether children had a 7-repeat variant of the DRD4 exon III VNTR. A community sample of 409 3-year-olds completed behavioural tasks to assess IC, and observational measures of parenting were also collected. Negative parenting was associated with lower child IC. The association between children's IC and positive parenting was moderated by children's DRD4 7-repeat status, such that children with at least one 7-repeat allele displayed lower IC than children without this allele when positive parenting was lower. These effects appeared to be primarily influenced by parent support and engagement. Results extend recent findings suggesting that some genetic polymorphisms may increase vulnerability to contextual influences.