Parenting and Cortisol in Infancy Interactively Predict Conduct Problems and Callous-Unemotional Behaviors in Childhood
This study examines observed maternal sensitivity, harsh-intrusion, and mental-state talk in infancy as predictors of conduct problems (CP) and callous-unemotional (CU) behaviors in middle childhood, as well as the extent to which infants' resting cortisol and cortisol reactivity moderate these associations. Using data from the Family Life Project (n = 1,292), results indicate that maternal sensitivity at 6 months predicts fewer CP at first grade, but only for infants who demonstrate high levels of cortisol reactivity. Maternal harsh intrusion predicts fewer empathic-prosocial behaviors, a component of CU behaviors, but only for infants who demonstrate high resting cortisol. Findings are discussed in the context of diathesis-stress and differential susceptibility models.