Temperament moderates the effects of early deprivation on infant attention

Zeynep Ertekin, Megan R. Gunnar, Sibel K. Berument

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Institutional care has been shown to increase the risk of attention problems in children, but some children are more sensitive to their environment, both for better and for worse. With this in mind, the current study examined the moderating role of temperament (falling reactivity) between early adversity and attention skills. Six- to 15-month-old infants residing in institutions (n = 63) and infants reared by their biological families from low socioeconomic environments (n = 59) were recruited. The infants’ attention skills were measured by calculating the length of time they spent looking at toys. The infants’ temperaments were measured by a subscale of the Infant Behavior Questionnaire (falling reactivity/rate of recovery from distress). The findings were in line with the differential susceptibility theory. Compared to infants with high levels of falling reactivity, infants with lower levels of falling reactivity had better attention skills if they were in a family group, but they had lower attention skills if they were residing in institutions. The attention skills of the infants who had higher scores for falling reactivity did not appear to be affected by the adverse environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)455-468
Number of pages14
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to acknowledge the directors of the institutions, children, caregivers, and mothers for their participation in the study. We also would like to thank the psychology students who helped in the data gathering process. The current study was supported by the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey [Turkiye Bilimsel ve Teknolojik Araştırma Kurumu (TÜBİTAK)] as a part of the 3‐year longitudinal project (Grant Number: 113K222) and by the Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD) with the Patrice L. Engle Dissertation Grant in 2018. The authors declare no conflicts of interest with regard to the funding source for this study. This study was carried out for the partial fulfillment of the Ph.D. degree of the corresponding author.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 International Congress of Infant Studies


  • attention skills
  • differential susceptibility
  • early deprivation
  • institutional care
  • temperament

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't


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