Harsh Parenting and Serotonin Transporter and BDNF Val66Met Polymorphisms as Predictors of Adolescent Depressive Symptoms

Kalsea J. Koss, E. Mark Cummings, Patrick T. Davies, Susan Hetzel, Dante Cicchetti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Depressive symptoms are prevalent and rise during adolescence. The present study is a prospective investigation of environmental and genetic factors that contribute to the growth in depressive symptoms and the frequency of heightened symptoms during adolescence. Participants included 206 mother–father–adolescent triads (M age at Time 1 = 13.06 years, SD = .51, 52% female). Harsh parenting was observationally assessed during a family conflict paradigm. DNA was extracted from saliva samples and genotyped for the 5-HTTLPR and BDNF Val66Met polymorphisms. Adolescents provide self-reports of depressive symptoms annually across early adolescence. The results reveal Gene × Environment interactions as predictors of adolescent depressive symptom trajectories in the context of harsh parenting as an environmental risk factor. A BDNF Val66Met × Harsh Parenting interaction predicted the rise in depressive symptoms across a 3-year period, whereas a 5-HTTLPR × Harsh Parenting interaction predicted greater frequency in elevated depressive symptoms. The findings highlight the importance of unique genetic and environmental influences in the development and course of heightened depressive symptoms during adolescence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S205-S218
JournalJournal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology
Issue numbersup1
StatePublished - Dec 21 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by grant R01 MH57318 from the National Institute of Mental Health awarded to Patrick Davies and E. Mark Cummings and by the Spunk Fund, Inc., awarded to Dante Cicchetti. Support was provided to Kalsea J. Koss by National Institute of Mental Health training grants (T32 MH015755 and T32 MH018921) during the preparation of this article.

Publisher Copyright:
©, Copyright © Society of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology.


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