Development and psychopathology
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Persistently elevated behavioral inhibition (BI) in children is a marker of vulnerability to psychopathology. However, little research has considered the joint influences of caregiver and child factors that may moderate the continuity of BI in early childhood, particularly genetic variants that may serve as markers of biological plasticity, such as the serotonin transporter linked polymorphic region (5-HTTLPR). We explored this issue in 371 preschoolers and their caregivers, examining whether parent characteristics (i.e., overinvolvement or anxiety disorder) and child 5-HTTLPR influenced the continuity of BI between ages 3 and 5. Measures were observational ratings of child BI, observational and questionnaire measures of parenting, and parent interviews for anxiety disorder history, and children were genotyped for the 5-HTTLPR. Parent factors did not moderate the association between age 3 and age 5 BI; however, child BI at age 3 interacted with children's 5-HTTLPR variants to predict age 5 BI, such that children with at least one copy of the short allele exhibited less continuity of BI over time relative to children without this putative plasticity variant. Findings are consistent with previous work indicating the 5-HTTLPR short variant increases plasticity to contextual influences, thereby serving to decrease the continuity of BI in early childhood.