Temperamental exuberance and executive function predict propensity for risk taking in childhood

Ayelet Lahat, Kathryn A. Degnan, Lauren K. White, Jennifer Martin McDermott, Heather A. Henderson, C. W. Lejuez, Nathan A. Fox

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


The present study utilized a multilevel approach to examine developmental trajectories in risk-taking propensity. We examined the moderating role of specific executive function components, attention shifting and inhibitory control, on the link between exuberant temperament in infancy and propensity for risk taking in childhood. Risk taking was assessed using a task previously associated with sensation seeking and antisocial behaviors. Two hundred ninety-one infants were brought into the lab and behaviors reflecting exuberance were observed at 4, 9, 24, and 36 months of age. Executive function was assessed at 48 months of age. Risk-taking propensity was measured when children were 60 months of age. The results indicated that exuberance and attention shifting, but not inhibitory control, significantly interacted to predict propensity for risk taking. Exuberance was positively associated with risk-taking propensity among children who were relatively low in attention shifting but unrelated for children high in attention shifting. These findings illustrated the multifinality of developmental outcomes for temperamentally exuberant young children and pointed to the distinct regulatory influences of different executive functions for children of differing temperaments. Attention shifting likely affords a child the ability to consider both positive and negative consequences and moderates the relation between early exuberance and risk-taking propensity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)847-856
Number of pages10
JournalDevelopment and Psychopathology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2012
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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