Infant temperamental reactivity, maternal and grandparental sensitivity: Differential susceptibility for behavior problems in China

Shufen Xing, Quan Zhou, Marc Archer, Jianhong Yue, Zhengyan Wang

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14 Citations (Scopus)


Background The differential susceptibility hypothesis suggests that children's innate characteristics and their rearing experiences interact differentially during development. Recently, the study of interactions between infants' temperament and rearing experiences has become a research hotspot. In China, grandparental care is a very common phenomenon, with many infants taken care of by grandparents while mothers are out for work. Aim To investigate whether the associations between maternal and grandmaternal sensitivity, and behavior problems were moderated by infant temperamental reactivity, while the infants were raised by both their mothers and grandmothers. Subjects A total of 71 infants (average age of 17.6 months), their mothers and grandmothers were included in this study. Outcome measures Maternal sensitivity and grandmaternal sensitivity were assessed with the Maternal Behavior Q-sort-Chinese Version, infants' temperamental reactivity was measured with Carey's Toddler Temperament Questionnaire-Chinese Revision, and infants' behavior problems were measured with the Infant-Toddler Social and Emotional Assessment-Chinese Version. Results Maternal sensitivity significantly predicted infants' impulsivity and aggression. Infants' temperamental reactivity moderated the effect of maternal sensitivity on infants' general anxiety. In addition, infant temperamental reactivity moderated the impact of grandmaternal sensitivity on infants' separation distress. Conclusions Our results support the differential susceptibility hypothesis to some extent. Infants with high temperamental reactivity not only suffer more from low maternal and grandmaternal sensitivity, but also benefit more from high maternal and grandmaternal sensitivity as compared to those infants with low temperamental reactivity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)99-105
Number of pages7
JournalEarly Human Development
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2016


  • Behavior problems
  • Differential susceptibility
  • Grandmaternal sensitivity
  • Grandparental sensitivity
  • Maternal sensitivity
  • Temperamental reactivity


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