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Fam Sci. 2010 Apr;1(2):93-101. Epub 2010 Dec 16.

Differential susceptibility to fathers' care and involvement: The moderating effect of infant reactivity.


The differential susceptibility hypothesis suggests that children differ in their susceptibility to the influence of both positive and negative environmental factors. Children with reactive temperaments are hypothesised to be particularly susceptible to environmental influences, both for better and for worse. The present study sought to investigate whether infant temperament moderates the influence of fathers on child prosocial and problem behaviours. In a large prospective population study (Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children), 5064 children were followed between the ages of six and 81 months (6¾ years). Infant temperament, child behaviours, and fathers' involvement and depression were assessed.Although no overall moderating effect of reactive temperament was found for father involvement or depression, there was an interaction between reactivity, child gender, and father involvement. Girls with reactive temperaments were more susceptible to father involvement, showing significantly fewer problem behaviours and more prosocial behaviours when fathers were more involved, and more problem behaviours and fewer prosocial behaviours with less father involvement. The findings provide some support for the differential susceptibility hypothesis and extend existing findings to include effects of fathers' involvement on positive and negative behavioural outcomes.

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