Lower levels of parent–child affective flexibility indicate risk for children’s problem outcomes. This short-term longitudinal study examined whether maternal depressive symptoms were related to lower levels of dyadic affective flexibility and positive affective content in mother–child problem-solving interactions at age 3.5 years (N=100) and whether these maternal and dyadic factors predicted child emotional negativity and behaviour problems at a 4-month follow-up. Dyadic flexibility and positive affect were measured using dynamic systems-based modelling of second-by-second affective patterns during a mother–child problem-solving task. Results showed that higher levels of maternal depressive symptoms were related to lower levels of dyadic affective flexibility, which predicted children’s higher levels of negativity and behaviour problems as rated by teachers. Mothers’ ratings of child negativity and behaviour problems were predicted by their own depressive symptoms and individual child factors, but not by dyadic flexibility. There were no effects of dyadic positive affect. Findings highlight the importance of studying patterns in real-time dyadic parent–child interactions as potential mechanisms of risk in developmental psychopathology.
parent–child interaction; flexibility; dynamic systems; depressive symptoms; behaviour problems
The present study examined developmental changes in the ability to recognize face parts. In Experiment 1, participants were familiarized with whole faces and given a recognition test with old and new eyes, noses, mouths, inner faces, outer faces, or whole faces. Adults were above chance in their recognition of the eye and mouth regions. However, children did not naturally encode and recognize face parts independently of the entire face. In addition, all age groups showed comparable inner and outer face recognition, except for 8- to 9-year-olds who showed a recognition advantage for outer faces. In Experiment 2, when participants were familiarized with eyes, noses, or mouths and tested with eyes, noses, or mouths, respectively, all ages showed above-chance recognition of eyes and mouths. Thirteen- to 14-year-olds were adult-like in their recognition of the eye region, but mouth recognition continued to develop beyond 14 years of age. Nose recognition was above chance among 13- to 14-year-olds, but recognition scores remained low even in adulthood. The present findings reveal unique developmental trajectories in the use of isolated facial regions in face recognition and suggest that featural cues (as a class) have a different ontogenetic course relative to holistic and configural cues.
featural face processing; face recognition
The purpose of this study was to examine self-regulation as a mediator of the relation between family functioning and externalizing behaviour in 731 low-income children (M age = 41 months) across three time points. Specifically, this study focused on whether chaos in the home and positive behaviour support were indirectly related to externalizing problems through their influence on inhibitory control. The primary findings were as follows: (a) chaos in the home at age 3 years was indirectly related to externalizing behaviour at age 5.5 years through children’s inhibitory control at age 4 years, and (b) positive behaviour support at age 3 years was indirectly related to externalizing behaviour at age 5.5 years through inhibitory control at age 4 years. Implications of these findings and directions for future research are discussed.
household chaos; inhibitory control; self-regulation; externalizing problems; low-income children
The current study examined the role of maternal behavior and toddlers' emotion regulation strategies in the development of children's sustained attention abilities. Participants for this study included 447 children (232 girls) obtained from three different cohorts participating in a larger ongoing longitudinal study. When the children were 2 years of age, mothers brought their children to the laboratory and were videotaped during several tasks designed to elicit emotion regulation and mother– child interaction. Sustained attention was also measured at the same visit via a laboratory task and in a subsequent visit when children were 4.5 years of age. Results indicated that toddlers' use of help-seeking emotion regulation strategies was positively related to sustained attention while avoidance behaviors and maternal behavior characterized by high levels of overcontrolling/intrusiveness were negatively related to sustained attention at age 2. Significant interactions emerged such that high levels of maternal warmth/responsiveness buffered the negative associations between low use of distraction and high use of self-comforting emotion regulation strategies and sustained attention at age 2. Maternal behavior characterized by high levels of warmth/responsiveness also predicted greater growth in sustained attention from age 2 to 4.5. These findings are discussed in terms of how maternal behaviors and children's use of active versus passive emotion regulation strategies relate to sustained attention abilities.
sustained attention; development; children; emotion regulation; maternal behavior
Using a sample of 263 mother-child dyads, we examined the extent to which maternal emotional and cognitive support during a joint problem solving task when children were 3-years-old predicted children’s academic skills one year later independent of each other, the quality of the home learning environment, and maternal emotional responsiveness. When all parenting measures were examined simultaneously, only maternal emotional support during problem solving and the quality of the home learning environment predicted unique variation in gains in pre-academic skills from age 3 to age 4. The positive effect of emotional support during problem solving was especially apparent for children whose pre-academic skills were low at age 3. These findings are discussed in light of the changing demands placed on young children and their parents as they prepare for entry to the formal school system.
Mother-child relations; academic readiness; school readiness; parenting; preschoolers
The current study examined concurrent and longitudinal relations between maternal negative affective behavior and child negative emotional expression in preschool age children with (n = 96) or without (n = 126) an early developmental risk, as well as the predictions of later behavior problems. Maternal negative affective behavior, child externalizing emotional expression, and child internalizing emotional expression were observed during a number of lab tasks at child ages 4 and 5, and child externalizing and internalizing behavior problems were assessed via maternal questionnaire at age 6. Path analyses using structural equation modeling were utilized to test the relations among the variables at ages 4, 5, and 6. A parent-driven model of emotion socialization emerged, wherein stronger relations were found among maternal negative affect and child externalizing emotions and behaviors than among maternal negative affect and child internalizing emotions and behaviors. Early child risk did not appear to alter the overall emotion socialization process, although higher levels of maternal and child negativity were observed for the children with a developmental risk. Results underscore the complexity of emotion socialization processes throughout the preschool period.
Emotion Socialization; Parenting; Behavior Problems; Child Development
Evaluative food categories are value-laden assessments which reflect the healthfulness and palatability of foods (e.g., healthy/unhealthy, yummy/yucky). In a series of three studies, this research examines how 3- to 4-year-old children (N = 147) form evaluative food categories based on input from external sources of information. The results indicate that children prefer to ask a mom and teacher over a cartoon and child for information about the evaluative status of foods. However, children are cautious to accept information about healthy foods from all of the external sources compared to unhealthy, yummy, and yucky foods. The results also indicate that providing information about the positive taste of healthy foods helps to encourage children to select healthy foods to eat. Taken together, these results have potential implications for children’s health and nutrition education.
Sleep-wake behaviors and temperament were examined longitudinally for trait stability and relationship to behavioral state regulation from infancy to early childhood. Subjects were 120 low-risk, full-term infants from a middle class sample. At 6 weeks, parents completed 3 consecutive days of the Baby’s Day Diary which measures sleep, wake, fuss, feed and cry states and the Infant Characteristics Questionnaire. At 16 months, parents assessed sleep behaviors with the Sleep Habits Inventory and temperament with the Toddler Symptom Checklist. At 24 months, parents repeated 3 days of the Baby’s Day Diary. Structural Equation Modeling was used to examine cross-age hypotheses for sleep-wake and temperament associations. From early infancy to toddlerhood, sleep-wake behaviors and irritable temperament were notably stable but independent in this cohort.
Sleep; wake; infant; toddler; temperament; continuity; fuss; diary method; longitudinal
Myriad studies support a relation between parental beliefs and behaviors. This study adds to the literature by focusing on the specific relationship between parental goals and their communication with toddlers. Do parents with different goals talk about different topics with their children? Parents’ goals for their 30-month-olds were gathered using semi-structured interviews with 47 primary caregivers, whereas the topics of conversations that took place during interactions were investigated via coding videotapes of observations in the home. Parents’ short- and long-term goals spanned several areas including educational, social-emotional, developmental and pragmatic goals. Parental utterances most frequently focused on pragmatic issues, followed by play and academic topics. Parents who mentioned long-term educational goals devoted more of their talk to academic topics and less to pragmatic topics, controlling for socio-economic status. Thus, parental goals differ and these differences relate to the conversations parents engage in with their children.
Parental beliefs; parental goals; parent-child interaction; parental talk
This study investigated the development of intuitions about which properties are associated with the brain and which are associated with the body. A sample of 60 children aged 6, 8, and 10 years, as well a sample of 20 adults, were told about a brain transplant between two individuals and were asked about where certain properties resided after the transplant. Adults and older children construed the characteristics associated with fine-motor behaviour, culpability, social contract and best friendships as transferring with the brain. Characteristics associated with gross-motor behaviour, physical/biological properties, ownership and familial relationships were more likely to be seen as remaining with the body. Domain-based explanations for this pattern of results are discussed.
brain transplant; personal and social properties; categories; domain specificity
The present study examined the role of positive parenting on externalizing behaviors in a longitudinal, genetically informative sample. It often is assumed that positive parenting prevents behavior problems in children via an environmentally mediated process. Alternatively, the association may be due to either an evocative gene-environment correlation, in which parents react to children’s genetically-influenced behavior in a positive way, or a passive gene-environment correlation, where parents passively transmit a risk environment and the genetic risk factor for the behavioral outcome to their children. The present study estimated the contribution of these processes in the association between positive parenting and children’s externalizing behavior. Positive parenting was assessed via observations at ages 7, 9, 14, 24, and 36 months and externalizing behaviors were assessed through parent report at ages 4, 5, 7, 9, 10, 11, and 12 years. The significant association between positive parenting and externalizing behavior was negative, with children of mothers who showed significantly more positive parenting during toddlerhood having lower levels of externalizing behavior in childhood; however, there was not adequate power to distinguish whether this covariation was due to genetic, shared environmental, or nonshared environmental influences.
We present a biobehavioral model that explains the neurobiological mechanisms through which measures of vagal regulation of the heart (e.g., respiratory sinus arrhythmia) are related to infant self-regulatory and social engagement skills. The model describes the sequential development of the neural structures that provide a newborn infant with the ability to regulate physiological state in response to a dynamically changing postpartum environment. Initially, the newborn uses primitive brainstem-visceral circuits via ingestive behaviors as the primary mechanism to regulate physiological state. However, as cortical regulation of the brainstem improves during the first year of life, reciprocal social behavior displaces feeding as the primary regulator of physiological state. The model emphasizes two sequential phases in neurophysiological development as the fetus transitions to postpartum biological and social challenges: 1) the development of the myelinated vagal system during the last trimester, and 2) the development of cortical regulation of the brainstem areas regulating the vagus during the first year postpartum.
social behavior; infancy; polyvagal theory; heart rate variability; respiratory sinus arrhythmia
Human neonates spend the majority of their time sleeping. Despite the limited waking hours available for environmental exploration, the first few months of life are a time of rapid learning about the environment. The organization of neonate sleep differs qualitatively from adult sleep, and the unique characteristics of neonatal sleep may promote learning. Sleep contributes to infant learning in multiple ways. First, sleep facilitates neural maturation, thereby preparing infants to process and explore the environment in increasingly sophisticated ways. Second, sleep plays a role in memory consolidation of material presented while the infant was awake. Finally, emerging evidence indicates that infants process sensory stimuli and learn about contingencies in their environment even while asleep. As infants make the transition from reflexive to cortically mediated control, learned responses to physiological challenges during sleep may be critical adaptations to promote infant survival.
Sleep; Infant; Classical Conditioning; Associative Learning; Sleep States; SIDS
This study investigated how parental beliefs about children’s emotions and parental stress relate to children’s feelings of security in the parent-child relationship. Models predicting direct effects of parental beliefs and parental stress, and moderating effects of parental stress on the relationship between parental beliefs and children’s feelings of security were tested. Participants were 85 African American, European American, and Lumbee American Indian 4th and 5th grade children and one of their parents. Children reported their feelings of security in the parent-child relationship; parents independently reported on their beliefs and their stress. Parental stress moderated relationships between three of the four parental beliefs about the value of children’s emotions and children’s attachment security. When parent stress was low, parental beliefs accepting and valuing children’s emotions were not related to children’s feelings of security; when parent stress was high, however, parental beliefs accepting and valuing children’s emotions were related to children’s feelings of security. These findings highlight the importance of examining parental beliefs and stress together for children’s attachment security.
Parental Beliefs; Stress; Attachment security
The presence and quality of friendships are posited to have developmental significance, yet little is known about the extent to which children without friends versus low-quality friendships compare on socioemotional adjustment. The current study utilized data from a subsample of 567 children (289 boys) participating in the NICHD Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development. Based on maternal reports at kindergarten, four friendship groups were formed: no friends, low quality, average quality, and high quality, and these groups were used to predict teacher-reported behavior problems and social skills concurrently (in kindergarten) and longitudinally (in first and third grade). Concurrently, low-quality friendships were associated with greater externalizing behavior, whereas high-quality friendships were associated with greater social skills. Longitudinally, having no friends in kindergarten was associated with higher levels of externalizing behavior for boys, but lower levels for girls. Children without friends also showed more internalizing problems at first grade. Lastly, having a high-quality friendship in kindergarten was associated with greater social skills in first and third grades, but only for boys. Results underscore high-quality friendship as a context for the development of social skills and indicate different trajectories of problem behavior for kindergarten children with no friends versus low-quality friendships.
friendship; kindergarten; internalizing; externalizing; social skills
The goal of this study was to determine whether verbal interactions between mothers and their 6-month-old infants during media exposure (‘media verbal interactions’) might have direct positive impacts, or mitigate any potential adverse impacts of media exposure, on language development at 14 months. For 253 low-income mother–infant dyads participating in a longitudinal study, media exposure and media verbal interactions were assessed using 24-hour recall diaries. Additionally, general level of cognitive stimulation in the home [StimQ] was assessed at 6 months and language development [Preschool Language Scale-4] was assessed at 14 months. Results suggest that media verbal interactions play a role in the language development of infants from low-income, immigrant families. Evidence showed that media verbal interactions moderated adverse impacts of media exposure found on 14-month language development, with adverse associations found only in the absence the these interactions. Findings also suggest that media verbal interactions may have some direct positive impacts on language development, in that media verbal interactions during the co-viewing of media with educational content (but not other content) were predictive of 14-month language independently of overall level of cognitive stimulation in the home.
media; infants; toddlers; parent-child interactions; language development
This study examined bidirectional relations between mothers’ lax and overreactive discipline and children’s misbehavior and negative affect. We examined the moment-to-moment stability of mothers’ and children’s behaviors (actor effects) and mothers’ and children’s influence on their partners’ subsequent behaviors (partner effects). Participants were 71 mothers and their 24–48-month-old children observed during a thirty-minute interaction. Both children and mothers exhibited stability in their own behaviors and influenced the subsequent behaviors of their partners. Additionally, a comparison of partner effects indicated that overreactive discipline more strongly predicted child negative affect than child negative affect predicted overreactive discipline. In contrast, although a child’s negative affect predicted lax discipline, lax discipline did not predict subsequent child negative affect.
parenting; externalizing; toddler; parent-child interactions
The role of maternal behavior and children's early emotion regulation skills in the development of children's reactive control, specifically behavioral impulsivity, and later effortful control was examined in a sample of 435 children. HLM analyses indicated significant growth in reactive control across the toddlerhood to early childhood period. Emotion regulation at age-2 positively predicted initial levels of children's reactive control abilities while maternal overcontrol/intrusiveness predicted lower levels of reactive control growth. Maternal behaviors at age-2 predicted children's effortful control abilities at age-5.5. Emotion regulation did not predict effortful control abilities. Maternal behavior and children's early emotion regulation skills may differentially facilitate the development of reactive and effortful control abilities.
temperament; maternal behavior; development; emotion regulation; effortful control; children
Evaluative categories include items that share the same value- laden assessment. Given that these categories have not been examined extensively within the child concepts literature, the present research explored evaluative categorization and induction within the domain of food as a test case. Specifically, two studies examined the categories of healthy and junky foods in children aged 4 and 7 years. Study 1 showed that by aged 4 years, children appropriately apply the evaluative categories of healthy and junky foods to a variety of different foods. Study 2 showed that by age 4 years, children also selectively use the evaluative categories of healthy and junky foods for inductive inferences about the human body, but not for arbitrary or unrelated inferences. Taken together, these results highlight the importance of evaluative processing in young children’s categorization and induction.
categorization; inductive inferences; evaluative categories; food
Fetal magnetoencephalography (fMEG) is the only non-invasive method for investigating evoked brain responses and spontaneous brain activity generated by the fetus in utero. Fetal auditory as well as visual evoked fields have been successfully recorded in basic stimulus-response studies. Moreover, paradigms investigating precursors for cognitive development, such as habituation and mismatch response have been applied successfully with fMEG. These and other studies have shown that the prenatal stage of life could be an important indicator for later cognitive development. This review addresses the achievements of fMEG and constructively discusses its challenges. It concludes with proposals for future studies as well as with designated new applications. Fetal MEG is a promising, and to date it is the only non-invasive approach for the prenatal assessment of precursors for cognitive development. Future fMEG studies might even enable the diagnosis of developmental delays. Furthermore, fMEG could be critical for the implementation and evaluation of fetal intervention programs in at-risk populations.
fetal magnetoencephalography; cognitive development in the fetus
The earliest relationship does not begin with birth. Pregnant women construct mental representations of the fetus, and feelings of affiliation or “maternal-fetal attachment” generally increase over the course of gestation. While there is a fairly substantial literature on the development and moderation of psychological features of the maternal-fetal relationship, including the role of ultrasound imaging, relatively little is known about the manner in which maternal psychological functioning influences the fetus. Dispositional levels of maternal stress and anxiety are modestly associated with aspects of fetal heart rate and motor activity. Both induced maternal arousal and relaxation generate fairly immediate alterations to fetal neurobehaviors; the most consistently observed fetal response to changes in maternal psychological state involves suppression of motor activity. These effects may be mediated, in part, by an orienting response of the fetus to changes in the intrauterine environment. Conversely, there is evidence that fetal behaviors elicit maternal physiological responses. Integration of this finding into a more dynamic model of the maternal-fetal dyad, and implications for the postnatal relationship are discussed. Research on the period before birth affords tremendous opportunity for developmental scientists to advance understanding of the origins of human attachment.
In the current study, we examined parent gender differences in feelings (negativity and positivity) and perceptions of child behavioural and emotional problems in adoptive and biological parent–child dyads. In a sample of 85 families, we used a novel within-family adoption design in which one child was adopted and one child was a biological child of the couple, and tested whether the links between parent feelings and child maladjustment included effects of passive gene–environment correlation. Parents reported more negativity and less positivity as well as higher levels of externalizing behaviour for the adopted child compared to the non-adopted child, although effect sizes were small and no longer statistically significant after correcting for multiple comparisons. Fathers and mothers did not differ significantly in their reports of positive and negative feelings towards their children or in regard to child externalizing and internalizing behaviours. The correlations between parental negativity and positivity and child externalizing and internalizing were similar for fathers and mothers, and for adopted and non-adopted children. The findings suggest similar parent–child relationship processes for fathers and mothers, and that genetic transmission of behaviour from parent to child does not account for the association between parental warmth and hostility and child-adjustment problems.
parent-child relations; adoption; child adjustment; passive gene-environment correlation
The present study examined Chinese children’s moral evaluations of truths and lies about one’s own pro-social acts. Children ages 7, 9, and 11 were read vignettes in which a protagonist performs a good deed and is asked about it by a teacher, either in front of the class or in private. In response, the protagonist either tells a modest lie, which is highly valued by the Chinese culture, or tells an immodest truth, which violates the Chinese cultural norms about modesty. Children were asked to identify whether the protagonist’s statement was the truth or a lie, and to evaluate how ‘good’ or ‘bad’ the statement was. Chinese children rated modest lies more positively than immodest truths, with this effect becoming more pronounced with age. Rural Chinese children and those with at least one nonprofessional parent rated immodest truths less positively when they were told in public rather than in private. Furthermore, Chinese children of parents with high collectivism scores valued modest lies more than did children of parents with low collectivism scores. These findings suggest that both macro- and micro-cultural factors contribute significantly to children’s moral understanding of truth and lie telling.
social development; moral development; lying; modesty; children; self presentation
This study explored the effects of collectivism on lying to conceal a group transgression. Seven-, 9-, and 11-year-old US and Chinese children (N = 374) were asked to evaluate stories in which protagonists either lied or told the truth about their group’s transgression and were then asked about either the protagonist’s motivations or justification for their own evaluations. Previous research suggests that children in collectivist societies such as China find lying for one’s group to be more acceptable than do children from individualistic societies such as the United States. The current study provides evidence that this is not always the case: Chinese children in this study viewed lies told to conceal a group’s transgressions less favourably than did US children. An examination of children’s reasoning about protagonists’ motivations for lying indicated that children in both countries focused on an impact to self when discussing motivations for protagonists to lie for their group. Overall, results suggest that children living in collectivist societies do not always focus on the needs of the group.
collectivism; reasoning; social cognition; individualism; deception