Child Psychiatry & Human Development

, Volume 49, Issue 1, pp 42–52 | Cite as

Maternal Responsiveness as a Predictor of Self-Regulation Development and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Symptoms Across Preschool Ages

  • Ursula Pauli-Pott
  • Susan Schloß
  • Katja Becker
Original Article


Preschool-age “hot” executive function capacity (i.e. reward-related effortful control) represents an early kind of self-regulation that is involved in social adjustment development as well as the development of subtypes of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Early self-regulation development might be malleable by responsive parenting. We analyzed whether maternal responsiveness/sensitivity predicts reward-related control (RRC) development within the preschool period, and whether RRC mediates a negative link between maternal responsiveness and ADHD symptoms. A sample of 125 preschoolers and their families were seen at the ages of 4 and 5 years. Maternal responsiveness/sensitivity was assessed via home observations, RRC by neuropsychological tasks, and ADHD symptoms by a structured clinical parent interview. Maternal responsiveness/sensitivity predicted RRC development. The negative link between maternal responsiveness/sensitivity at 4 years and ADHD symptoms at 5 years was mediated by RRC performance at 5 years. Preschoolers showing ADHD symptoms combined with low RRC capacity in particular might benefit from responsive/sensitive parenting.


Maternal responsiveness Parenting Preschool age Development of self-regulation Delay of gratification Delay aversion Attention deficits hyperactivity symtoms 



The research for this article was funded by a grant from the University Medical Centre Giessen-Marburg and by grants from the German Research Foundation (DFG, Be2573/3-1,2) to Prof Dr. Katja Becker and Prof. Dr. Ursula Pauli-Pott.


  1. 1.
    Mischel W, Ayduk O, Berman MG, Casey BJ, Gotlib IH, Jonides J, Kross E, Teslovich T, Wilson NL, Zayas V, Shoda Y (2011) ‘Willpower’ over the life span: decomposing self-regulation. Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci 6(2):252–256CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Rothbart MK, Bates JE (2006) Temperament. In: Eisenberg N, Damon W, Lerner RM (eds) Handbook of child psychology, vol 3. Social, emotional, and personality development. Wiley, Hoboken, pp 105–176Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Eisenberg N, Spinrad TL, Eggum ND (2010) Emotion-related self-regulation and its relation to children’s maladjustment. Annu Rev Clin Psychol 6:495–525CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Kim S, Nordling JK, Yoon JE, Boldt LJ, Kochanska G (2013) Effortful control in “hot” and “cool” tasks differentially predicts children’s behavior problems and academic performance. J Abnorm Child Psychol 41(1):43–56CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Barkley RA (1997) Behavioral inhibition, sustained attention, and executive functions:constructing a unifying theory of ADHD. Psychol Bull 121(1):65–94CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Garon N, Bryson SE, Smith IM (2008) Exekutive function in preschoolers: a review using an integrative framework. Psychol Bull 134 (1):31–60CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Petersen SE, Posner MI (2012) The attention system of the human brain: 20 years after. Annu Rev Neurosci 35:73–89CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Willoughby M, Kupersmidt J, Voegler-Lee M, Bryant D (2011) Contributions of hot and cool self-regulation to preschool disruptive behavior and academic achievement. Dev Neuropsychol 36(2):162–180. doi: 10.1080/87565641.2010.549980 CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Zelazo PD, Carlson SM (2012) Hot and cool executive function in childhood and adolescence: development and plasticity. Child Dev Perspect 6(4):354–360Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Hwang K, Velanova K, Luna B (2010) Strengthening of top-down frontal cognitive control networks underlying the development of inhibitory control: a functional magnetic resonance imaging effective connectivity study. J Neurosci 30(46):15535–15545CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Plichta MM, Scheres A (2014) Ventral-striatal responsiveness during reward anticipation in ADHD and its relation to trait impulsivity in the healthy population: a meta-analytic review of the fMRI literature. Neurosci Biobehav Rev 38:125–134CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Rubia K (2013) Functional brain imaging across development. Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry 22(12):719–731CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Rothbart MK, Sheese BE, Rueda MR, Posner MI (2011) Developing mechanisms of self-regulation in early life. Emot Rev 3(2):207–213CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Posner MI, Rothbart MK, Sheese BE, Voelker P (2012) Control networks and neuromodulators of early development. Dev Psychol 48(3):827–835CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Nigg JT, Goldsmith HH, Sachek J (2004) Temperament and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: the development of a multiple pathway model. J Clin Child Adolesc 33(1):42–53CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Sonuga-Barke EJ, Auerbach J, Campbell SB, Daley D, Thompson M (2005) Varieties of preschool hyperactivity: multiple pathways from risk to disorder. Dev Sci 8(2):141–150CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Luman M, Oosterlaan J, Sergeant JA (2005) The impact of reinforcement contingencies on AD/HD: a review and theoretical appraisal. Clin Psychol Rev 25(2):183–213CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Nigg JT (2006) Temperament and developmental psychopathology. J Child Psychol Psychiatry 47(3–4):395–422CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Pauli-Pott U, Becker K (2011) Neuropsychological basic deficits in preschoolers at risk for ADHD: a meta-analysis. Clin Psychol Rev 31(4):626–637CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Pauli-Pott U, Becker K (2015) Time windows matter in ADHD-related developing neuropsychological basic deficits: A comprehensive review and meta-regression analysis. Neurosci Biobehav Rev 55:165–172. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2015.04.011 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Murray J, Theakston A, Wells A (2016) Can the attention training technique turn one marshmallow into two? Improving children’s ability to delay gratification. Behav Res Ther 77:34–39CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Hammond SI, Muller U, Carpendale JIM, Bibok MB, Liebermann-Finestone DP (2012) The effects of parental scaffolding on preschoolers’ executive function. Dev Psychol 48(1):271–281CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Kochanska G, Murray KT, Harlan ET (2000) Effortful control in early childhood: continuity and change, antecedents, and implications for social development. Dev Psychol 36(2):220–232CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Lengua LJ, Honorado E, Bush NR (2007) Contextual risk and parenting as predictors of effortful control and social competence in preschool children. J Appl Dev Psychol 28(1):40–55CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Chang H, Olson SL, Sameroff AJ, Sexton HR (2011) Child effortful control as a mediator of parenting practices on externalizing behavior: evidence for a sex-differentiated pathway across the transition from preschool to school. J Abnorm Child Psychol 39(1):71–81CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Bernier A, Carlson SM, Whipple N (2010) From external regulation to self-regulation: early parenting precursors of young children’s executive functioning. Child Dev 81(1):326–339CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Hughes C, Ensor R (2005) Executive function and theory of mind in 2 year olds: a family affair? Dev Neuropsychol 28(2):645–668CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Olson SL, Tardif TZ, Miller A, Felt B, Grabell AS, Kessler D, Wang L, Karasawa M, Hirabayashi H (2011) Inhibitory control and harsh discipline as predictors of externalizing problems in young children: a comparative study of U.S., Chinese, and Japanese preschoolers. J Abnorm Child Psychol 39(8):1163–1175CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Sulik MJ, Blair C, Mills-Koonce R, Berry D, Greenberg M, Investigators FLP (2015) Early parenting and the development of externalizing behavior problems: longitudinal mediation through children’s executive function. Child Dev 86(5):1588–1603CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Li-Grining CP (2007) Effortful control among low-income preschoolers in three cities: Stability, change, and individual differences. Dev Psychol 43(1):208–221CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Wass SV, Scerif G, Johnson MH (2012) Training attentional control and working memory—Is younger, better? Dev Rev 32(4):360–387CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Sonuga-Barke EJ, Halperin JM (2010) Developmental phenotypes and causal pathways in attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder: potential targets for early intervention? J Child Psychol Psychiatry 51(4):368–389CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Döpfner M, Görtz-Dorten A, Lehmkuhl G (2008) DISYPS-II Diagnostik-System für psychische Störungen nach ICD-10 und DSM-IV für Kinder und Jugendliche - II. Huber, BernGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Polowczyk M, Trautmann-Villalba P, Dinter-Jörg M, Gerhold M, Laucht M, Schmidt M, Esser G (2000) Auffällige Mutter-Kind-Interaktion im Vorschulalter bei Kindern mit hyperkinetischen und Sozialverhaltensauffälligkeiten. Z Klin Psychol Psychothera 29(4):293–304CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    Kochanska G (2009) Family study. Effortful control batteries. University of Iowa, Iowa CityGoogle Scholar
  36. 36.
    Dalen L, Sonuga-Barke EJ, Hall M, Remington B (2004) Inhibitory deficits, delay aversion and preschool AD/HD: implications for the dual pathway model. Neural Plast 11(1–2):1–11CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  37. 37.
    Marakovitz SE, Campbell SB (1998) Inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity from preschool to school age: performance of hard-to-manage boys on laboratory measures. J Child Psychol Psychiatry 39(6):841–851CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  38. 38.
    Asendorpf JB (1990) Development of inhibition during childhood: Evidence for situational specificity and a two-factor model. Dev Psychol 26:721–730CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. 39.
    Pauli-Pott U, Dalir S, Mingebach T, Roller A, Becker K (2014) Attention deficit/hyperactivity and comorbid symptoms in preschoolers: differences between subgroups in neuropsychological basic deficits. Child Neuropsychol 20(2):230–244CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  40. 40.
    Pauli-Pott U, Roller A, Heinzel-Gutenbrunner M, Mingebach T, Dalir S, Becker K (2014) Inhibitory control and delay aversion in unaffected preschoolers with a positive family history of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. J Child Psychol Psychiatry 55(10):1117–1124CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  41. 41.
    Carlson SM (2005) Developmentally sensitive measures of executive function in preschool children. Dev Neuropsychol 28(2):595–616CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  42. 42.
    Petersen IT, Hoyniak CP, McQuillan ME, Bates JE, Staples AD (2016) Measuring the development of inhibitory control: the challenge of heterotypic continuity. Dev Rev 40:25–71CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  43. 43.
    Breaux RP, Griffith SF, Harvey E (2016) Preschool neuropsychological measures as predictors of later attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. J Abnorm Child Psychol 44(8):1455–1471CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  44. 44.
    Fox NA, Henderson HA, Rubin KH, Calkins SD, Schmidt LA (2001) Continuity and discontinuity of behavioral inhibition and exuberance: psychophysiological and behavioral influences across the first four years of life. Child Dev 72(1):1–21CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  45. 45.
    Pauli-Pott U, Dalir S, Mingebach T, Roller A, Becker K (2013) Do different ADHD-related etiological risks involve specific neuropsychological pathways? An analysis of mediation processes by inhibitory control and delay aversion. J Child Psychol Psychiatry 54(7):800–809CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  46. 46.
    Taylor E, Schachar R, Thorley G, Wieselberg M (1986) Conduct disorder and hyperactivity: I. Separation of hyperactivity and antisocial conduct in British child psychiatric patients. Br J Psychiatry 149:760–767CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  47. 47.
    Daley D (2010) Preschool-parent account of child symptoms (Pre-Pacs). University of Southampton, SouthamptonGoogle Scholar
  48. 48.
    Sonuga-Barke EJ, Dalen L, Remington B (2003) Do executive deficits and delay aversion make independent contributions to preschool attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder symptoms? J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 42(11):1335–1342CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  49. 49.
    Breuer D, Dopfner M (2008) Development of a questionnaire for the assessment of attention-deficit-/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in preschoolers by parents and/or teacher ratings. Z Entwickl Padagogis 40(1):40–48Google Scholar
  50. 50.
    Petermann F (ed) (2009) WPPSI-III, Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence-III; German Version. Pearson Assessment & Information GmbH, Frankfurt am MainGoogle Scholar
  51. 51.
    Christiansen H, Kis B, Hirsch O, Matthies S, Hebebrand J, Uekermann J, Abdel-Hamid M, Kraemer M, Wiltfang J, Graf E, Colla M, Sobanski E, Alm B, Rosler M, Jacob C, Jans T, Huss M, Schimmelmann BG, Philipsen A (2012) German validation of the Conners Adult ADHD Rating Scales (CAARS) II: reliability, validity, diagnostic sensitivity and specificity. Eur Psychiatry 27(5):321–328CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  52. 52.
    Rösler M, Retz-Junginger P, Retz W, Stieglitz R-D (2008) HASE Homburger ADHS-Skalen für Erwachsene. Hogrefe, GöttingenGoogle Scholar
  53. 53.
    Gortz-Dorten A, Ise E, Hautmann C, Walter D, Dopfner M (2014) Psychometric properties of a german parent rating scale for oppositional defiant and conduct disorder (FBB-SSV) in clinical and community samples. Child Psychiatry Hum Dev 45(4):388–397CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  54. 54.
    Döpfner M, Schmeck K, Berner W, Lehmkuhl G, Poustka F (1994) Reliabilität und Validität der Child-Behavior-Checklist. Z Kinder- und Jugendpsychiat Psychother 22(3):189–205Google Scholar
  55. 55.
    Baron RM, Kenny DA (1986) The moderator-mediator variable distinction in social psychological research: conceptual, strategic, and statistical considerations. J Pers Soc Psychol 51(6):1173–1182CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  56. 56.
    Preacher KJ, Hayes AF (2008) Asymptotic and resampling strategies for assessing and comparing indirect effects in multiple mediator models. Behav Res Methods 40(3):879–891CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  57. 57.
    Bornstein MH, Manian N (2013) Maternal responsiveness and sensitivity reconsidered: Some is more. Dev Psychopathol 25(4):957–971CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  58. 58.
    Deault LC (2010) A systematic review of parenting in relation to the development of comorbidities and functional impairments in children with attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Child Psychiatry Hum Dev 41:168–192CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  59. 59.
    Coghill D, Sonuga-Barke EJ (2012) Annual research review: categories versus dimensions in the classification and conceptualisation of child and adolescent mental disorders–implications of recent empirical study. J Child Psychol Psychiatry 53(5):469–489CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  60. 60.
    Sonuga-Barke EJ, Koerting J, Smith E, McCann DC, Thompson M (2011) Early detection and intervention for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Expert Rev Neurother 11(4):557–563CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ursula Pauli-Pott
    • 1
  • Susan Schloß
    • 1
  • Katja Becker
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Psychosomatics and PsychotherapyPhilipps-University of MarburgMarburgGermany

Personalised recommendations