Differential susceptibility to maternal expressed emotion in children with ADHD and their siblings? Investigating plasticity genes, prosocial and antisocial behaviour.


[Correction Notice: An Erratum for this article was reported in Vol 25(2) of European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (see record 2016-05831-004). Due to a coding difference between data imported from the UK IMAGE lab and the coding in the authors’ own lab at the Radboudumc, approximately 200 persons in NeuroIMAGE received a wrong genotype for the HTTLPR variant. After correction and extensive checks, all analyses were rerun; new results can be found in Tables S1-4, S6, and S7. Descriptions of corrections are found in the erratum.] The differential susceptibility theory states that children differ in their susceptibility towards environmental experiences, partially due to plasticity genes. Individuals carrying specific variants in such genes will be more disadvantaged in negative but, conversely, more advantaged in positive environments. Understanding gene-environment interactions may help unravel the causal mechanisms involved in multifactorial psychiatric disorders such as Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The differential susceptibility theory was examined by investigating the presence of interaction effects between maternal expressed emotion (EE; warmth and criticism) and the solitary and combined effects of plasticity genes (DAT1, DRD4, 5-HTT) on prosocial and antisocial behaviour (measured with parent- and self-reports) in children with ADHD and their siblings (N = 366, M = 17.11 years, 74.9 % male). Maternal warmth was positively associated with prosocial behaviour and negatively with antisocial behaviour, while maternal criticism was positively associated with antisocial behaviour and negatively with prosocial behaviour. No evidence of differential susceptibility was found. The current study found no evidence for differential susceptibility based on the selected plasticity genes, in spite of strong EE-behaviour associations. It is likely that additional factors play a role in the complex relationship between genes, environment and behaviour.