Interactions between child temperament and family environment in relation to school readiness: Diathesis-stress, differential susceptibility, or vantage sensitivity?
*Gobeil-Bourdeau J, Lemelin J-P, Letarte M-J, Laurent A. (2022). Interactions between child temperament and family environment in relation to school readiness: Diathesis-stress, differential susceptibility, or vantage sensitivity? Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 60(3), 274-286.
Children entering school with lower school readiness are at greater risk of facing adjustment problems in subsequent years. Recently, temperament has emerged as a predictor of school readiness, but whether the readiness of children with different temperament traits are differentially affected by the quality of their family environment remains unknown. This study pertained to the moderating role of children’s temperament (negative affectivity, surgency/extraversion, effortful control) in the relationship between family environment (parenting and sociodemographic risk) and two school readiness dimensions (cognitive and socioemotional). We also tested how such interactions corresponded to three theoretical models of person-environment interactions: diathesis-stress, differential susceptibility, and vantage sensitivity. The sample included 98 children (59% boys) at risk due to their poor school readiness at 4.5 years old. Temperament was reported by parents, whereas family characteristics were extracted from a combination of parent reports and observations during a home visit before kindergarten when the children were 4.5 years old. School readiness was both assessed directly with the children and reported by parents at the end of kindergarten (M = 72.5 months; SD = 3.4). Hierarchical multiple linear regressions showed that negative affectivity and surgency/extraversion did not interact with family characteristics to predict children’s school readiness. Therefore, enhancing the quality of family environments is likely to improve the school readiness of all at-risk children, regardless of their reactivity. Nonetheless, significant interactions were observed between family characteristics, and effortful control. Support was found for the diathesis-stress model but was insufficient to confirm either differential susceptibility or vantage sensitivity. Because at-risk children appear differentially affected by their family environment as a function of their effortful control level, adjusting preventive interventions to children’s regulation capacities may be a useful way to enhance their effectiveness, and children’s school readiness.