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Beyond diathesis stress: differential susceptibility to environmental influences

Belsky, J., & Pluess, M. (2009), Psychological Bulletin, 135(6), 885-908. doi: 10.1037/a0017376

This paper introduces the concept of Differential Susceptibility. It lays out the theoretical foundations and then reviews a large number of studies that provide empirical evidence for the concept.

According to Differential Susceptibility Theory, children differ fundamentally in their developmental response to environmental influences with some being more and some less sensitive.

Importantly, more susceptible individuals are not only more affected by the negative effects of adverse experiences but also particularly responsive to the positive effects of supportive experiences.

According to empirical studies susceptibility has been associated with specific genetic, physiological and behavioural factors which are reviewed in this paper.