Nature and nurture in temperament

December 11, 2003

During the last century, personality and behavior have been at the center of the nature versus nurture debate. Research on the genetic background of personality has been most active in relation to temperament, particularly to novelty seeking (NS; NS refers to a bias in the activation or initiation of behaviors, such as frequent activity in response to novelty and active avoidance of frustration, impulsive decision making, and risk- taking behaviors). A gene playing a role in dopamine transmission has been identified as the NS gene. The extent to which environment may direct or modulate the effect of this gene on NS has not been previously tested.

The authors investigated whether NS in adulthood at the age of 20 to 29 would be predicted over 14 years by an interaction between the DRD4 gene polymorphism and the mother-reported childhood rearing environment the participant aged 6 to 15 at the time of the mother-report. This question was studied in a sample of children (n = 92), derived from a representative population sample of healthy young Finns (n = 2,149). It was found that when the childhood rearing environment was more hostile (emotionally distant, lowly tolerant towards the child's normal activity, and strict in discipline), participants carrying any 2- or 5- repeat alleles of the DRD4 gene had a significantly greater risk of exhibiting NS scores that were above the 10th percentile on a population distribution of 2,149 adult Finnish women and men, relative to participants who were not carrying the 2- or 5-repeat alleles. The genotype had no effects on NS when the childhood environment was more accepting.
ARTICLE: "Nature and nurture in novelty seeking"

AUTHORS: Liisa Keltikangas-Järvinen, Katri Räikkönen, Jesper Ekelund, Leena Peltonen

Department of Psychology, University of Helsinki, Finland; Department of Molecular Medicine, National Public Health Institute, Helsinki, Finland

Citation source: Molecular Psychiatry advance online publication, December 2003 (doi:10.1038/

For further information on this work, please contact Dr. Liisa Keltikangas-Järvinen, Siltavuorenpenger 20 D, PoBox 9, 00014 University of Helsinki. Phone number: 358-9-1912-9500; Fax: 358-9-1912-9521; Email: Liisa.Keltikangas-Jä

Molecular Psychiatry is published by the Nature Publishing Group.

Editor: Julio Licinio, M.D.; phone: 310-825-7113; FAX: 310-206-6715; e-mail:

For a copy of this article, please contact Aimee Midei, Editorial Assistant, e-mail:


Molecular Psychiatry

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