Child maltreatment, impulsivity, and antisocial behavior in African American children: Moderation effects from a cumulative dopaminergic gene index

Eric L. Thibodeau, Dante Cicchetti, Fred A. Rogosch

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46 Scopus citations


A model examining the effects of an increasing number of maltreatment subtypes experienced on antisocial behavior, as mediated by impulsivity and moderated by a polygenic index of dopaminergic genotypes, was investigated. An African American sample of children (N = 1,012, M age = 10.07) with and without maltreatment histories participated. Indicators of aggression, delinquency, and disruptive peer behavior were obtained from peer- and counselor-rated measures to form a latent variable of antisocial behavior; impulsivity was assessed by counselor report. Five genotypes in four dopaminergic genes (dopamine receptors D4, D2, known as DRD4, DRD2; dopamine active transporter 1, known as DAT1; and catechol-O-methyltransferase, known as COMT) conferring heightened environmental sensitivity were combined into one polygenic index. Using structural equation modeling, a first-stage, moderated-mediation model was evaluated. Age and sex were entered as covariates, both as main effects and in interaction with maltreatment and the gene index. The model had excellent fit: χ2 (32, N = 1,012) = 86.51, p <.001; comparative fit index = 0.982, Tucker-Lewis index = 0.977, root mean square error of approximation = 0.041, and standardized root mean square residual = 0.022. The effect of maltreatment subtypes on antisocial behavior was partially mediated by impulsivity (β = 0.173, p <.001), and these relations were moderated by the number of differentiating dopaminergic genotypes. Specifically, a significant Gene × Environment interaction (β = 0.016, p =.013) indicated that the relation between maltreatment and impulsivity was stronger as children evinced more differentiating genotypes, thereby strengthening the mediational effect of impulsivity on antisocial behavior. These findings elucidate the manner by which maltreated children develop early signs of antisocial behavior, and the genetic mechanisms involved in greater vulnerability for maladaptation in impulse control within the context of child maltreatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1621-1636
Number of pages16
JournalDevelopment and psychopathology
StatePublished - Nov 1 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding received from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (R01DA17741), the National Institute of Mental Health (R01MH083979), and the Spunk Fund, Inc., supported this research.

Publisher Copyright:
© Copyright Cambridge University Press 2015.


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