ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2022, Vol. 54 ›› Issue (2): 141-153.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2022.00141

• Reports of Empirical Studies • Previous Articles     Next Articles

The interplay of maternal sensitivity and infant temperament and attention in predicting toddlers’ executive function: A two-year longitudinal study

ZHANG Qing1,2,3, WANG Zhengyan1()   

  1. 1Department of Psychology, Center for Child Development, Learning and Cognitive Key Laboratory, Capital Normal University, Beijing 100048, China
    2Institute of Psychology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, China
    3Department of Psychology, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
  • Published:2022-02-25 Online:2021-12-24
  • Contact: WANG Zhengyan
  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China(31971006)


To explore the early mechanisms behind the development of execution function (EF) in toddlerhood from an intrinsic and environmental perspective, 163 mother-child dyads were invited to the laboratory for assessments. At 6 months, we evaluated maternal sensitivity by observing the free, interactive process between mother and children. Infant temperament was assessed by the Infant Behavior Questionnaire Revised-Short Form (IBQR-SF) reported by the mother. And infant attention was assessed by a Peak Look Duration task at six months. At 24 months, toddlers' EF was measured by a battery of EF tasks, including Multilocation Search, Shape Stroop, Reverse Categorization, and Delay of Gratification tasks. The results indicated that: (1) Peak look duration could predict working memory task and Delay of Gratification task performance at 24 months. (2) High levels of maternal sensitivity significantly predicted better EF performance among children with low levels of surgency in infancy. However, there was no link between maternal sensitivity and EF among children with medium-to-high levels of surgency in infancy. (3) Maternal sensitivity positively predicted EF performance among children with high levels of peak look duration in infancy. However, maternal sensitivity negatively predicted EF performance among children with low levels of peak look duration in infancy. Overall, our findings indicate the importance of intrinsic and extrinsic factors in the development of EF in toddlers and provide key insights into parenting.

Key words: maternal sensitivity, temperament, attention, executive function, toddler