Helping Relationships and Genetic Propensities: A Combinatoric Study of DRD2, Mentoring, and Educational Continuation


relationships, development, risky behaviors, genetics


From conception to death, helping relationships promote positive development and enable people to surmount challenges in their lives. Is it the case that the negative consequences of a genetic propensity for risky behaviors can be attenuated by helping relationships (a G × E)? But is it also the case that people with such a genetic propensity are less likely to have helping relationships compared to people without such a propensity (a rGE)? We illustrate this complex pattern of gene–environment interplay by drawing on the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health and a combinatoric analytic strategy. We focus on a gene associated with dopamine receptor type 2 (DRD2 TaqIA), student–mentor relationships, and educational continuation beyond secondary school. Results reveal that, for both white and black males, DRD2 A1+ (A1A1 and A1A2 genotypes) is associated with a decreased likelihood of school continuation compared to their counterparts with DRD2 A1–; mentors who are teachers compensate for this negative association (a G × E); and youth with DRD2 A1+ are less likely to have a mentor who is a teacher than their counterparts with DRD2 A1– (a rGE).

Original Publication Citation

Shanahan, Michael J., Lance D. Erickson, Steve Vaisey & Andrew Smolen. (2007). Helping Relationships and Genetic Risk: A Combinatoric Study of DRD2, Mentoring, and Educational Continuation. Twin Research and Human Genetics, 10(2):285-298.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


Permanent URL


Twin Research and Human Genetics




Family, Home, and Social Sciences



University Standing at Time of Publication

Associate Professor