Methylation Matters in Child Development: Toward Developmental Behavioral Epigenetics


  • MJBK and MHvIJ were supported by awards from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (MJBK: VIDI Grant 452-04-306, VICI Grant 400-04-182; MHvIJ: SPINOZA prize).

concerning this article should be addressed to Marinus van IJzendoorn, Leiden University, Wassenaarseweg 52, 2333 AK Leiden, Leiden, The Netherlands; e-mail:


Abstract— Child development might be conceptualized as experiences becoming sculpted in the organism’s DNA through methylation, one of the major epigenetic mechanisms of change. This article introduces some of the basic biological mechanisms of methylation, discusses research on animal models, and highlights some of the most impressive methylation studies on human development. Although assessment of methylation levels still is under debate, saliva-derived methylation might tremendously enhance the opportunities for noninvasive epigenetic studies on child development. It seems worthwhile to add methylation to the G × E equation to fully appreciate the effects of the environment on child and adult functioning.