The development of fearfulness and the capacity of animals to cope with stressful events are particularly sensitive to early experience with mothers in a wide range of species. However, intrinsic characteristics of young animals can modulate maternal influence. This study evaluated the effect of intrinsic fearfulness on non-genetic maternal influence. Quail chicks, divergently selected for either higher (LTI) or lower fearfulness (STI) and from a control line (C), were cross-fostered by LTI or STI mothers. Behavioural tests estimated the chicks' emotional profiles after separation from the mother. Whatever their genotype, the fearfulness of chicks adopted by LTI mothers was higher than that of chicks adopted by STI mothers. However, genetic background affected the strength of maternal effects: the least emotional chicks (STI) were the least affected by early experience with mothers. We demonstrated that young animal's intrinsic fearfulness affects strongly their sensitivity to non-genetic maternal influences. A young animal's behavioural characteristics play a fundamental role in its own behavioural development processes.