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J Fam Psychol. 2013 Feb;27(1):22-9. doi: 10.1037/a0027829. Epub 2012 Apr 2.

Supportive family environments, genes that confer sensitivity, and allostatic load among rural African American emerging adults: a prospective analysis.

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Center for Family Research, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602-4527, USA.


The purpose of this study was to investigate interactions between exposure to supportive family environments and genetic characteristics, which were hypothesized to forecast variations in allostatic load (AL) in a representative sample of 315 rural African American youths. Data on family environments were gathered when youths were 11-13, and genetic data were collected when they were 16, years of age. Data on AL were obtained at the beginning of emerging adulthood, age 19 years. The data analyses revealed that, as predicted, emerging adults exposed to less supportive family environments across preadolescence manifested higher levels of AL when they carried the short (s) allele at the 5-HTTLPR and an allele of DRD4 with seven or more repeats. This is an E(family environment) × G(5-HTTLPR status) × G(DRD4 status) interaction. These data suggest that African American youths carrying genes that confer sensitivity who are exposed to less supportive family environments may be at greater risk for adverse physical health consequences that AL presages.

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