More Than Meets the Eye: Parental and Infant Contributors to Maternal and Paternal Reports of Early Infant Difficultness

Lara D. Atella, Janet A. DiPietro, Barbara A. Smith, Ian St James-Roberts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives. This study examined correspondences among maternal and paternal ratings of infant temperament, parental psychological functioning, and infant behavior. Design. Participants included 120 families. When infants were 6 weeks old, mothers and fathers completed the Infant Characteristics Questionnaire (ICQ); reported on their own levels of anxiety, depressive symptoms, and parenting stress; and completed a 3-day diary of their infants' behavior. Infant irritability was assessed in a laboratory situation. Results. Fathers rated their infants' temperament somewhat more negatively, but there was significant correspondence between maternal and paternal ratings on the temperament factors of fussiness, unadaptability, dullness, and a difficultness composite. Higher infant difficultness was consistently associated with parenting stress. Infant behavioral fussiness, as measured by 3-day diaries, was significantly correlated with temperament ratings by both parents and with irritability observed in the laboratory setting. Maternal psychological distress was weakly predictive of ratings of infant difficultness; infant behaviors (diary and laboratory-based irritability) accounted for 15 to 17% of the variance. Paternal psychological distress and infant behaviors contributed equally to difficultness ratings. Conclusions. Mothers and fathers are influenced by somewhat different factors in perceiving their babies' temperament, but both maternal and paternal reports have a basis in laboratory- and diary-based behaviors. Results indicate the strong contributing influence of infant irritability to the perception of difficult temperament and support the validity of parental reports of infant irritability in the first 6 weeks of life.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)265-284
Number of pages20
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 1 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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