Temperamental Susceptibility to Parenting among Preterm and Full-Term Infants in Early Cognitive Development Academic Article uri icon


  • The current study examined the interaction between premature birth, temperamental reactivity, and parenting in early cognitive development. Participants were 142 infants (80 preterm; 62 full term) and their parents. Parent–child interactions (maternal, paternal, and co-parental) were observed at age 6 months to assess parental structuring behaviors. Additionally, both parents reported on infants' temperamental reactivity. At 12 months of age, infants' cognitive abilities were assessed. Consistent with the diathesis–stress model, preterm infants had lower cognitive outcomes than full-term infants when exposed to low levels of co-parental structuring, but functioned similarly when exposed to high levels of co-parental structuring. However, temperamental reactivity moderated this effect: Infants who carried one susceptibility factor (i.e., premature birth or reactive temperament) were similarly affected by co-parental structuring, whereas infants who carried two or no susceptibility factors were not. Furthermore, consistent with the differential susceptibility hypothesis, infants with highly reactive temperaments had lower cognitive functioning when exposed to low maternal structuring, but higher cognitive functioning when exposed to high maternal structuring compared to infants with lower reactivity. Results from this study highlight the importance of considering both temperamental reactivity and quality of parenting in understanding preterm infants' early cognitive vulnerability.

publication date

  • January 1, 2016