Background We examined whether children cared for by stressed caregivers show lower socio-emotional well-being and more stress, compared with children cared for by less stressed caregivers.
Methods Perceived stress and cortisol levels of professional caregivers (n= 44), and associations with children's (n= 44) well-being and cortisol levels in home-based child care were examined.
Results Caregiver perceived stress and cortisol levels were related to children's well-being but not to children's cortisol levels. Children's social fearfulness acted as a moderator between caregivers' mean ratio of diurnal change in cortisol and children's well-being. When caregiver cortisol levels decreased, more fearful children were reported higher on well-being than less fearful peers. In contrast, when caregiver cortisol levels increased, more fearful children were reported lower on well-being.
Conclusions The findings point to differential susceptibility. Child care organizations and parents need to notice that a non-stressful child care environment is in particular important for children with a difficult temperament.