Aggression-related problems such as assault and homicide among adolescents and young adults exact considerable social and economic costs. Although progress has been made, additional research is needed to help combat this persistent problem. Several lines of research indicate that parental hostility is an especially potent predictor of adolescent aggression, although most longitudinal research has focused on clarifying the direction of effects. In this study, we used longitudinal data from the PROSPER project (N = 580; 54.8 % female), a primarily rural Caucasian preventative intervention sample, to examine developmental change in early- to mid-adolescent aggressive behavior problems (age 11–16 years). In addition, we examined maternal hostility as a predictor of developmental change in aggression and the PROSPER preventative intervention, designed to reduce substance use and aggression, as a potential influence on this association. Lastly, several studies indicate that variation in the DRD4 7-repeat gene moderates both parenting and intervention influences on externalizing behavior. Accordingly, we examined the potential moderating role of DRD4. As hypothesized, there was a significant maternal hostility by intervention interaction indicating that the intervention reduced the negative impact of maternal hostility on adolescent change in aggressive behavior problems. DRD4 7-repeat status (7+ vs. 7−) further conditioned this association whereby control group 7+ adolescents with hostile mothers showed increasing aggressive behavior problems. In contrast, aggression decreased for 7+ adolescents with similarly hostile mothers in the intervention. Implications for prevention are discussed as well as current perspectives in candidate gene-by-environment interaction research.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Social Psychology
- Developmental and Educational Psychology
- Social Sciences (miscellaneous)