Does early maternal responsiveness buffer prenatal tobacco exposure effects on young children's behavioral disinhibition?

Caron A.C. Clark, Suena H. Massey, Sandra A. Wiebe, Kimberly Andrews Espy, Lauren S. Wakschlag

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Children with prenatal tobacco exposure (PTE) exhibit early self-regulatory impairments, reflecting a life-course persistent propensity toward behavioral disinhibition. Previously, we demonstrated the protective role of parental responsiveness for reducing the risk of exposure-related disruptive behavior in adolescence. Here, we expanded this line of inquiry, examining whether responsiveness moderates the relation of PTE to a broader set of behavioral disinhibition features in early childhood and testing alternative diathesis-stress versus differential susceptibility explanatory models. PTE was assessed prospectively using interviews and bioassays in the Midwestern Infant Development Study (MIDS). Mother-child dyads (N = 276) were re-assessed at approximately 5 years of age in a preschool follow-up. We quantified maternal responsiveness and child behavioral disinhibition using a combination of directly observed activities in the lab and developmentally sensitive questionnaires. Results supported a diathesis-stress pattern. Children with PTE and less responsive mothers showed increased disruptive behavior and lower effortful control compared with children without PTE. In contrast, exposed children with more responsive mothers had self-regulatory profiles similar to their non-exposed peers. We did not observe sex differences. Findings provide greater specification of the protective role of maternal responsiveness for self-regulation in children with PTE and help clarify mechanisms that may underscore trajectories of exposure-related behavioral disinhibition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1285-1298
Number of pages14
JournalDevelopment and Psychopathology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2019


  • disruptive behavior
  • executive function
  • parenting
  • prenatal tobacco exposure
  • self-regulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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