International literature has underlined the complex interplay between genetic and environmental variables in shaping children’s emotional-behavioral functioning.
This study aimed to explore the dynamic relationship between children’s Dopamine Transporter (DAT1) genotype and methylation, and maternal and paternal affective environment, on children’s Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) problems and dysregulation problems.
In a community sample of 76 families with school-aged children, we assessed children’s DAT1 genotype and methylation, their own ADHD problems and dysregulation profile (CBCL 6–18 DP), and maternal and paternal psychopathological risk, parenting stress, and marital adjustment. Hierarchical regressions were carried out to verify the possible moderation of children’s genotype on the relationship between children’s methylation and psychopathological risk, parental environment and children’s methylation, and parental environment and children’s psychopathological risk.
The levels of methylation at M1 CpG significantly predicted ADHD problems among children with 10/10 genotype, whereas high levels of methylation at M6 CpG predicted low ADHD problems for children with 9/x genotype. High levels of methylation at M3 CpG were associated with high scores of CBCL DP. DAT1 genotype moderated the relationship between maternal and paternal variables with children’s methylation and psychopathological risk. The scores of maternal and paternal Dyadic Adjustment Scale showed indirect effects on children’s methylation and psychopathological risk in relation to those exerted by risk factors.
Our study has supported the emerging evidence on the complex nature of children’s emotional-behavioral functioning and the associated risk and protective factors, with important implications for the planning of preventive programs.