Relations Between Three Dopaminergic System Genes, School Attachment, and Adolescent Delinquency

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Abstract

Both environmental factors and genetic variation, particularly in genes responsible for the dopaminergic system such as DRD4, DRD2, and DAT1 (SLC6A3), affect adolescent delinquency. The school context, despite its developmental importance, has been overlooked in gene-environment research. Using data from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development (NICHD ECCYD), this study examined key interactions between school attachment and (a) each of the DRD4, DRD2, and DAT1 (SLC6A3) genotypes; and (b) a polygenic score. Results indicate that there is a main effect of school attachment, unlike genetic variation, on delinquency. Interestingly, there are important interactive effects of school attachment and dopaminergic genotypes on delinquency. Carriers of the DRD2-A1 allele were differentially affected by both positive and negative school environments, whereas DAT1-10R carriers fared the same as 9R homozygotes in poorer and moderate school environments, but fared disproportionately better in more positive environments. Contrary to expectations, youth without the DRD4-7R allele were particularly affected by the school environment. These findings contribute to the literature considering the roles of both context and genes in delinquency research, and inform our understanding of the individual-level traits that influence sensitivity to particular contexts.

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