Publication Date

Summer 2017

Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Diane Lickenbrock (Director),Elizabeth Lemerise, Andrew Mienaltowski

Degree Program

Department of Psychological Sciences

Degree Type

Master of Science


Parents play a critical role in their infants’ social and emotional development (Zeifman, 2003). High parental sensitivity contributes to greater infant attachment security (De Wolff & van IJzendoorn, 1997), as well as better compliance later in life (van Berkel et al., 2015). Personality influences how parents respond to their infants, such that parents higher in neuroticism are more controlling and less stimulating (Clark, Kochanska, & Ready, 2000), and less responsive (Kochanska, Friesenborg, Lange, & Martel, 2004). However, previous studies have found mixed results with parent extraversion. Some studies found that high parental extraversion could lead to more parent responsiveness (Clark et al., 2000), whereas others have found that these parents are more controlling (Metsepelto & Pulkkinen, 2002). The three components of infant temperament (negative reactivity, orienting, and surgency) have been found to differentially predict parenting (Bridgett et al., 2009; Rothbart & Bates, 2006; Planalp, Braungart-Rieker, Lickenbrock, & Zentall, 2013). In addition, the majority of the research examining predictors of parental sensitivity has involved predominantly mother-infant dyads; father-infant dyads are examined less often. The current study aimed to longitudinally examine how parent personality and infant temperament contribute to parental sensitivity over time in 4 (n = 49), 6 (n = 41), and 8 month old (n = 35) infants in both mothers and fathers. Parent personality and infant temperament were assessed via questionnaires filled out by each parent. Parental sensitivity was observationally coded during a dyadic, parent-infant face-to-face play task. Regression analyses revealed differential predictors of parental sensitivity for mothers and fathers and showed partial support for the goodness of fit perspective between the parent’s personality and infant’s temperament.


Child Psychology | Developmental Psychology | Social Psychology