From “difficult” to “susceptible” child. An experimental study on negative emotionality- based differential susceptibility in school-aged children
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Belsky (1997) provided a fundamentally different way of examining the temperament x parenting interaction; the differential susceptibility hypothesis. This hypothesis tells us that individuals who are most vulnerable to stressors also benefit the most when exposed to positive factors like environmental support and warm parenting. This experimental study, amongst 160 children aged 5-7 (M=6,6) years, examines whether children with negative emotionality are more susceptible for both negative and positive parenting. The research has been performed using questionnaires and an experimental manipulation through primes, followed by a prosocial behavior task and an antisocial behavior task. The expected outcome is that harsh parenting predicted more antisocial behavior and warm parenting predicted more prosocial behavior in children with negative emotionality, compared to children without such temperament. Due to imbedded gender stereotypes, a sensitivity difference between boys and girls is expected. Nevertheless, no significant main or moderating effects have been found. This means that no evidence has been found in this study for the differential susceptibility hypothesis, neither for boys nor for girls.