Parenting and Child DRD4 Genotype Interact to Predict Children’s Early Emerging Effortful Control


  • This research was supported by a Young Investigator award from NARSAD and an Early Researcher Award from the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation to Elizabeth P. Hayden, GCRC Grant M01-RR10710 to Stony Brook University from the National Center for Research Resources, and National Institute of Mental Health Grant R01 MH069942 to Daniel N. Klein.

concerning this article should be addressed to Heather J. Smith, Department of Psychology, University of Western Ontario, Westminster Hall, London, ON, Canada N6A 3K7. Electronic mail may be sent to


Effortful control (EC), or the trait-like capacity to regulate dominant responses, has important implications for children’s development. Although genetic factors and parenting likely influence EC, few studies have examined whether they interact to predict its development. This study examined whether the DRD4 exon III variable number tandem repeat polymorphism moderated the relation between parenting and children’s EC. Three hundred and eighty-two 3-year-olds and primary caregivers completed behavioral tasks assessing children’s EC and parenting. Children’s DRD4 genotypes moderated the relation between parenting and EC: Children with at least one 7-repeat allele displayed lower EC in the context of negative parenting than children without this allele. These findings suggest opportunities for modifying early risk for low EC.