Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

, Volume 47, Issue 1, pp 99–108 | Cite as

Parental Depressive Symptoms Potentiate the Effect of Youth Negative Mood Symptoms on Gene Expression in Children with Asthma

  • Erika M. ManczakEmail author
  • Bryn Dougherty
  • Edith Chen


Depressive symptoms in parents and in youths have been found to relate to disease comorbidity processes in children, including greater disease-related impairment and poorer clinical outcomes. The current study sought to assess whether coming from a family characterized by more depressive symptoms on average would potentiate the effects of changes in youths’ own negative mood on the expression of two receptor genes relevant to asthma that are the primary targets of asthma medication, such that the combination of low child negative mood in the context of greater parental depressive symptoms would relate to the lowest levels of gene expression. One-hundred-twenty youths with diagnosed asthma and their parents participated every 6 months for 2 years. Parents reported on their depressive symptoms, children reported negative mood symptoms, and youths completed blood draws from which expression of Glucocorticoid Receptor (GR) and Beta2 Adrenergic Receptor (β2-AR) genes was extracted. Multilevel linear modeling revealed significant interactions between average levels of parental depressive symptoms and changes in youths’ negative mood symptoms predicting gene expression, such that youths expressed significantly less GR and β2-AR during times when they experienced more negative mood symptoms, but this was only true if they came from families with higher levels of average parental depressive symptoms. The current study identifies novel and biologically-proximal molecular signaling patterns that connect depressive symptoms to pediatric asthma while also highlighting the important role of family environment for biological processes that may operate within depression comorbidity.


Depression Parents-child relationships Asthma Molecular genetics 



Support for this research was provided by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute grant R01-HL108723 and National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute grant R01-HL073975.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

The authors attest that they have complied with ethical standards, including, but not limited to, oversight by the Institutional Review Board of the University of British Columbia.

Informed Consent

Informed consent/assent was obtained from all participants.

Supplementary material

10802_2018_420_MOESM1_ESM.docx (70 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 69 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral SciencesStanford UniversityStanfordUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyNorthwestern UniversityEvanstonUSA
  3. 3.Department of Psychology and the Institute for Policy ResearchNorthwestern UniversityEvanstonUSA

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