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Keywords:

  • additive interaction;
  • DRD4;
  • gene-environment interaction;
  • maternal care;
  • neuroticism

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to investigate risk for neuroticism due to the joint action of low maternal care and compromised mesocorticolimbic ‘reward’ system function linked to a variable number tandem repeat (VNTR) in the dopamine 4 receptor gene (DRD4). Data were drawn from the Victorian Adolescent Health Cohort Study, a longitudinal study of the health and well-being of 2,000 young Australians followed from adolescence to young adulthood across 8 waves from 14- to 28-years. Genetic risk was defined by carriage of at least one copy of the 7-repeat allele or derivative alleles 5, 6, and 8 (labeled 7R+). Neuroticism was assessed in adolescence and young adulthood. We observed an approximately fourfold increase in the odds of reporting neurotic symptoms in carriers of the 7R+ disposition who reported low maternal care compared with non-carriers who reported high maternal care. The percentage of risk attributable to mechanisms in which both factors played a role was 35%. Findings are discussed in terms of implications for prevention.