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Is quality more important if you're quirky?: A review of the literature on differential susceptibility to childcare environments

Evidence concerning the impact of child care on child development suggests that higher-quality environments, particularly those that are more responsive, predict more favourable social and behavioural outcomes. However, the extent of this effect is not as great as might be expected. Impacts on child outcomes are, at best, modest. One recent explanation emerging from a new theoretical perspective of development, differential susceptibility theory, is that a minority of children are more reactive to both positive and negative environments, while the majority are relatively unaffected. These "quirky" children have temperamental traits that are more extreme, and are often described in research studies as having "difficult temperaments". This paper reviews the literature on such children and argues for the need for further research to identify components of childcare environments that optimise the potential of these more sensitive, quirky individuals. (author abstract)
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