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Dev Psychol. 2012 May;48(3):722-39. doi: 10.1037/a0026599. Epub 2012 Jan 16.

The impact of stress on the life history strategies of African American adolescents: cognitions, genetic moderation, and the role of discrimination.

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Department of Psychology, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH 03755, USA.


The impact of 3 different sources of stress--environmental, familial (e.g., low parental investment), and interpersonal (i.e., racial discrimination)--on the life history strategies (LHS) and associated cognitions of African American adolescents were examined over an 11-year period (5 waves, from age 10.5 to 21.5). Analyses indicated that each one of the sources of stress was associated with faster LHS cognitions (e.g., tolerance of deviance, willingness to engage in risky sex), which, in turn, predicted faster LHS behaviors (e.g., frequent sexual behavior). LHS, then, negatively predicted outcome (resilience) at age 21.5 (i.e., faster LHS → less resilience). In addition, presence of the risk ("sensitivity") alleles of 2 monoamine-regulating genes, the serotonin transporter gene (5HTTLPR) and the dopamine D4 receptor gene (DRD4), moderated the impact of perceived racial discrimination on LHS cognitions: Participants with more risk alleles (higher "sensitivity") reported faster LHS cognitions at age 18 and less resilience at age 21 if they had experienced higher amounts of discrimination and slower LHS and more resilience if they had experienced smaller amounts of discrimination. Implications for LHS theories are discussed.

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