Differential Susceptibility

Genetic Differential Susceptibility

Our lab was the first to discover and document (in 2006) genetic differential susceptibility of children to their rearing environment. We experimentally demonstrated that carriers of the Dopamine D4 receptor 7-repeat (DRD4-7R) allele were not only most vulnerable to adverse parental influences but also showed the most positive outcomes when they received supportive care. DRD4-7R has long been considered a ‘risk’ gene related to increased risks for, e.g., ADHD and addiction, but our correlational and experimental molecular genetic studies (in recent studies broadened to gene sets) showed that dopamine related genes may also be considered as genetic markers of differential susceptibility or biological plasticity to environmental influences. This discovery triggered numerous studies on genetic differential susceptibility, and by now has found strong meta-analytical support. We also tested the role of the serotonin transporter gene as susceptibility factor, and found in a meta-analyses empirical support for this idea, at least in Caucasian samples. Perhaps most importantly, we paved the way for a completely new approach to Gene X Environment research, going beyond correlational studies to experimental  tests of GxE with much improved statistical power.

Central papers:

  • Mileva-Seitz, V.R., Bakermans-Kranenburg, M.J., Van IJzendoorn, M.H. (2016). Genetic mechanisms of parenting. Hormones and Behavior, 77, 211-223. DOI:10.1016/j.yhbeh.2015.06.003.
  • Bakermans-Kranenburg, M.J. & Van IJzendoorn, M.H. (2015). The hidden efficacy of interventions: Gene x Environment experiments from a differential susceptibility perspective. Annual Review of Psychology, 66, 381-409. DOI:10.1146/annurev-psych-010814-015407
  • Windhorst, D.A., Mileva-Seitz, V.R., Linting, M., Hofman, A., Jaddoe, V.W.V., Verhulst, F.C., … Bakermans-Kranenburg, M.J. (2015). Differential Susceptibility in a Developmental Perspective: DRD4 and Maternal Sensitivity Predicting Externalizing Behavior. Developmental Psychobiology, 57(1), 35-49.
  • Bakermans-Kranenburg, M.J., Van IJzendoorn, M.H., Mesman, J., Alink, L.R.A., & Juffer, F. (2008). Effects of an attachment-based intervention on daily cortisol moderated by DRD4: A randomized control trial on 1-3-year-olds screened for externalizing behavior. Development & Psychopathology, 20, 805-820. DOI: 10.1017/S0954579408000382
  • Bakermans-Kranenburg, M.J. & Van IJzendoorn, M.H. (2006). Gene-environment interaction of the Dopamine D4 receptor (DRD4) and observed maternal insensitivity predicting externalizing behavior in preschoolers. Developmental Psychobiology, 48, 406-409.DOI: 10.1002/dev.20152