Preschool-aged children (n=274) were examined in the laboratory to assess behavioral and cortisol responses to nonsocial and social threat. Parents also responded to scales on the Children's Behavior Questionnaire reflecting exuberant approach to novel/risky activities (reversed scored) and shyness. Multi-method measures of Nonsocial and Social Inhibition were computed. Parents and children were observed engaging in a series of interactive tasks and the Emotional Availability scales were scored for parental sensitivity, nonintrusiveness, nonhostility, and structuring. These scores were factored to yield one measure of Parenting Quality. Analyses revealed that Nonsocial and Social Inhibition could be distinguished and that associations with cortisol response were stressor specific. Moderation analyses revealed that parenting quality buffered cortisol elevations for extremely socially, but not nonsocially inhibited children. These findings are consistent with evidence that sensitive, supportive parenting is an important buffer of the HPA axis response to threat in infants and toddlers, and extends this finding to the preschool period.
- Behavioral inhibition
- Fearful temperament