The manifestation of alcohol dependence at different developmental stages may be associated with different genetic and environmental factors. Taking a developmental approach, we characterized interaction between the dopamine receptor 4 variable number tandem repeat (DRD4 VNTR) polymorphism and developmentally specific environmental factors (childhood adversity, college/Greek organization involvement, and delayed adult role transition) on alcohol dependence during emerging and young adulthood. Prospective data were obtained from a cohort of 234 White individuals (56% women, 44% men) who were followed up at ages 18 through 34. A longitudinal hierarchical factor model was estimated to model a traitlike persistent alcohol dependence factor throughout emerging and young adulthood and 2 residual statelike alcohol dependence factors limited to emerging adulthood and young adulthood, respectively. We accounted for those alcohol dependence factors by modeling 3 two-way interaction effects between the DRD4 VNTR polymorphism and the 3 developmentally specific environment factors. Carriers of the DRD4 long allele showed greater susceptibility to environmental effects; they showed more persistent symptoms of alcohol dependence as childhood adversity increased and more alcohol dependence symptoms limited to emerging adulthood as college/Greek organization involvement increased. Alcohol dependence among noncarriers of the long allele, however, did not differ as a function of those environments. Although replication is necessary, these findings highlight the importance of repeated phenotypic assessments across development and modeling both distal and proximal environments and their interaction with genetic susceptibility at specific developmental stages.
- DRD4 VNTR
- Gene-environment interaction