Early childhood psychosocial family risks and cumulative dopaminergic sensitizing score: Links to behavior problems in U.S. 9-year-olds

Sari Mullola, Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, Marko Elovainio, Christian Hakulinen, Lisa M. Schneper, Daniel A. Notterman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background: We examined, (a) whether in early childhood exposure to risky family environment in different domains (socioeconomic, mental, parenting practices, health behavior, and child-related risks) and accumulatively across various domains (cumulative risk) is associated with child's problem behavior at age 9, and (b) whether the association is more pronounced in children carrying cumulative dopaminergic sensitizing genotype or living in low-income families. Methods: Participants were 2,860 9-year old children (48% females; 48% Black) and their mothers from the ‘Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study’, a probability birth cohort from large U.S. cities. Mothers responded to questions on child's problem behavior (CBCL). Children responded to questions about their vandalism and substance use. Results: Cumulative family risk was associated with higher internalizing and externalizing behavior and higher vandalism and substance use. All domain-specific risk clusters were associated with higher internalizing behavior and, with the exception of child-related risk, with higher externalizing behavior. Mental health risks, risky parenting practices, and risky health behavior were associated with higher vandalism. Risky parenting practices were associated with higher substance use. The associations were robust to adjustment for cumulative dopaminergic sensitizing genotype. No G x E interactions with dopaminergic genotype and family SES were observed. Limitations: Sample size was relatively small for genetic analysis and polygenic risk scores were not available. Conclusions: Exposure to cumulative psychosocial family risks from early childhood is associated with early indicators of problem behavior in adolescence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)432-441
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
StatePublished - Feb 1 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Clinical Psychology


  • Antisocial behavior
  • Cumulative dopaminergic sensitizing score
  • Cumulative family risk
  • Domain-specific family risk
  • Problem behavior


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