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Life stress, the dopamine receptor gene, and emerging adult drug use trajectories: A longitudinal, multilevel, mediated moderation analysis

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 July 2012

Gene H. Brody*
University of Georgia Emory University
Yi-Fu Chen
University of Georgia
Tianyi Yu
University of Georgia
Steven R. H. Beach
University of Georgia
Steven M. Kogan
University of Georgia
Ronald L. Simons
University of Georgia
Michael Windle
Emory University
Robert A. Philibert
University of Iowa
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Gene H. Brody, University of Georgia, Center for Family Research, 1095 College Station Road, Athens, GA 30602-4527; E-mail:


This study was designed to examine the prospective relations of life stress and genetic status with increases in drug use. African Americans (N = 399) in rural Georgia (Wave 1 mean age = 17 years) provided three waves of data across 27.5 months and a saliva sample from which the dopamine receptor D4 (DRD4) gene was genotyped. Multilevel growth curve modeling analysis indicated that emerging adults manifested the highest escalations in drug use when they reported high life stress and carried an allele of DRD4 with 7 or more repeats (7 + R allele). In addition, emerging adults who reported high life stress and carried the 7 + R allele evinced the largest increases in two proximal risk factors for drug use: affiliations with drug-using companions and drug use vulnerability cognitions. Furthermore, when the Gene × Environment interaction effects on the increases in affiliations with drug-using companions and vulnerability cognitions were entered into the model forecasting drug use, the Life Stress × DRD4 Status interaction on drug use became nonsignificant in the presence of the risk mechanisms. This finding provides an example of “second generation” Gene × Environment interaction research in which the interaction's effects on proximal risk mechanisms account for its effects on outcomes.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2012

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