Background: Although the association of the dopamine transporter (DAT1) gene and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has been widely studied, far less is known about its potential interaction with environmental risk factors. Given that maltreatment is a replicated risk factor for ADHD, we explored the interaction between DAT1 and maltreatment with ADHD symptoms defined dimensionally and using latent class analysis (LCA).
Method: We tested the association of the 40 base-pair variable number of tandem repeats polymorphism in DAT1, maltreatment, and their interaction in 2,488 boys and girls from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health.
Results: In boys, ADHD symptoms were optimally defined by four classes (Combined, Hyperactive/Impulsive, Inattentive, and Normal), whereas in girls, ADHD symptoms were defined by three classes (Combined, Combined-Mild, Normal). A significant DAT1 × maltreatment interaction revealed that maltreated girls homozygous for the 10-repeat allele had more symptoms of ADHD, and were also 2.5 times more likely to be classified in the Combined ADHD group than in the Normal Group.
Conclusions: The underlying structure of ADHD symptoms differed between boys and girls and DAT1 interacted with maltreatment to predict ADHD symptoms and ADHD status derived from LCA. Interactive exchanges between maltreatment and DAT1 for ADHD symptoms, and their implications for intervention, are discussed.