Journal of Child and Family Studies

, Volume 23, Issue 5, pp 872–884 | Cite as

Help Me Play! Parental Behaviors, Child Temperament, and Preschool Peer Play

  • Sandra Glover Gagnon
  • Timothy J. Huelsman
  • Anna E. Reichard
  • Pamela Kidder-Ashley
  • Marissa Swaim Griggs
  • Jessica Struby
  • Jennie Bollinger
Original Paper


Social competence is a critical developmental milestone for preschoolers. Because play is the primary activity through which preschoolers interact socially with peers, it serves as an excellent indicator of social competence. The development of social competence in preschoolers is complex and multifaceted. In order to capture this complexity, we used Belsky’s differential susceptibility hypothesis as a framework for examining the contributions of child temperament and parenting styles in the prediction of peer interactive play behaviors. Using parent ratings of a sample of 44 preschool-age children, we hypothesized that child temperament (specifically, reactivity and regulation) acts as a susceptibility factor in the relationship between parenting styles (authoritarian and authoritative) and child peer play behaviors (disruptive and interactive). Our findings indicated that child reactivity moderated the relationship between authoritarian parenting style and both play outcomes, suggesting that reactivity serves as a potential susceptibility factor. More specifically, children with high reactivity who had more authoritarian parents demonstrated higher levels of disruptive play and lower levels of interactive play. Regulation did not act as a susceptibility factor in our sample. Findings are discussed in terms of implications for practice and in terms of an approach that considers temperament (specifically reactivity) and parenting behaviors in preschool assessment and intervention efforts. Additionally, we discuss how our findings partially support the differential susceptibility hypothesis.


Social competence Temperament Parenting Peer play Preschool 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sandra Glover Gagnon
    • 1
  • Timothy J. Huelsman
    • 1
  • Anna E. Reichard
    • 2
  • Pamela Kidder-Ashley
    • 1
  • Marissa Swaim Griggs
    • 3
  • Jessica Struby
    • 4
  • Jennie Bollinger
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyAppalachian State UniversityBooneUSA
  2. 2.College of EducationUniversity of OregonEugeneUSA
  3. 3.Psychology DepartmentUniversity of VirginiaCharlottesvilleUSA
  4. 4.Lexington School District OneLexingtonUSA
  5. 5.Department of PsychologyNorth Carolina State UniversityRaleighUSA

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