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Sensitive Children and the Quality of the Early Environment

Our study examined children’s well-being in the presence of childhood adversities and support provided by their families. The role of children’s sensitivity to environmental influences was investigated as a potential moderator of both the positive and negative effect of the environment on children’s development.

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When Sensitivity and Culture Collide

Different cultural views on sensitive behaviour can complicate the measurement of innate levels of sensitivity.

To explore this issue further, we tested the Highly Sensitive Person scale in the most culturally diverse setting to date: the rainbow nation of South Africa.

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The New-born Brain and Differences in Sensitivity to Parenting

Our study examined whether brain characteristics of the new-born baby contribute to sensitivity to parenting quality in terms of cognitive development.

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Research on Sensitivity: Past, Present, and Future

Research on sensitivity has evolved and grown substantially over the last 25 years. In this blog, I describe and summarise the breadth of research on sensitivity from the past (the first 20 years), the present (the last 5 years) and the future (the coming 10 years).

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Sensitive Adolescents and the Transition into High School

Does the transition from middle school to high school provide a developmental risk for sensitive adolescents? Our research findings suggest that sensitive adolescents report increased socio-emotional well-being if experiencing positive changes in the school environment.

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Seeing is Believing: Sensitivity through Children’s Attention to Emotions

Children’s sensitivity to distress in contexts of interparental conflict is stronger for children who devote more attention to angry and fearful emotions.

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Genetic Sensitivity to Stress During Pregnancy

Genetic sensitivity moderates the effects of maternal stress during pregnancy on child behaviour with children that are genetically more sensitive being more affected by the quality of their prenatal environment.


Vantage Sensitivity Theory: Sensitive People Benefit More from Positive Experiences

Sensitive people are more strongly affected by both negative and positive experiences.


Identical Twins provide Clues to Sensitivity Genes

We conducted a genetic study of environmental sensitivity using a novel approach involving identical twins. Using these findings, we were able to estimate the genetic propensity to environmental sensitivity in two further samples and showed findings that were consistent with theories of sensitivity.

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Prenatal Stress Promotes the Development of Sensitivity

Our study examined whether prenatal stress increases sensitivity to parental care in an animal model.

Results showed that prairie voles that were prenatally stressed were more sensitive to the quality of care they received in terms of their later anxious behaviour and physiological reactivity.