Behavioral inhibition (BI) is a temperament characterized by heightened negative affect and social reticence to unfamiliar peers. In a longitudinal study, 291 infants were assessed for BI at 24 and 36 months of age. At age 7, N2 amplitude was measured during a Flanker task. Also at age 7, children experienced social exclusion in the lab during an interaction with an unfamiliar peer and an experimenter. Our findings indicate that children characterized as high in BI, relative to those low in BI, had larger (i.e., more negative) N2 amplitudes. Additionally, among children with a large N2, BI was positively related to withdrawal and negatively related to assertiveness during social exclusion. These findings suggest that variations in conflict detection among behaviorally inhibited children plays a role in their social behavior during stressful social situations.
Behavioral inhibition; cognitive conflict; N2; social problem solving; social exclusion
The purpose of this study was to investigate the feasibility and validity of a modified version of Buschke’s missing scan methodology, the Missing Scan Task (MST), to assess working memory capacity (WMC) and cognitive control processes in preschool children 3–6 years in age. Forty typically developing monolingual English-speaking children between 36 and 84 months in age participated in the study. The children were tested on measures of WMC (MST), verbal and nonverbal memory (NEPSY Narrative Memory and Memory for Designs subtests), and language skills (Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test, fourth edition). Children showed increased working memory capacity scores with age, as measured by the MST, with significant differences between 3- and 5-year-olds and 3- and 6-year-olds. Significant correlations were also found between the MST and language and verbal and nonverbal memory scores. MSTscores still remained significantly correlated with the other measures of memory even after age and global language were accounted for in a regression analysis, demonstrating that the MST captures unique variance related specifically to WMC and cognitive control processes used to retrieve and scan information in short-term memory (STM). The results of this study demonstrate that the MST is a feasible and valid methodology for assessing WMC in preschool children as young 3 years of age.
missing scan; memory scanning; working memory capacity
The effects of low income on children's adjustment might be accounted for by disruptions to hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA)-axis activity and to the development of effortful control. Using longitudinal data and a community sample of preschool-age children (N = 306, 36–39 months) and their mothers, recruited to over-represent low-income families, we explored the associations among diurnal cortisol levels and effortful control, and we tested a model in which diurnal cortisol and effortful control account for the effects of family income on child adjustment. Continuous indicators of morning cortisol level and diurnal slope, as well as dichotomous indicators reflecting low morning levels and flat diurnal slope, were examined as predictors of rank-order changes in two dimensions of effortful control, executive control and delay ability. Low income was related to a flat diurnal cortisol slope, and above the effects of family income, a flat diurnal cortisol slope predicted lower social competence. Low morning cortisol level predicted smaller gains in executive control and higher total adjustment problems. Further, delay ability predicted lower adjustment problems above the effects of income and diurnal cortisol levels. The results suggest that HPA-axis dysregulation and effortful control contribute additively to children's adjustment.
income; HPA axis; effortful control; social competence; adjustment problems; preschool
Two recent advances in the study of fearful temperament (behavioral inhibition) include the validation of dysregulated fear as a temperamental construct that more specifically predicts later social withdrawal and anxiety, and the use of conceptual and statistical models that place parenting as a mechanism of development from temperament to these outcomes. The current study further advances these areas by examining whether protective parenting mediated the relation between dysregulated fear in toddlerhood and social withdrawal in kindergarten. Participants included 93 toddlers and their mothers, who engaged in laboratory tasks assessing traditional fearful temperament, dysregulated fear, and protective parenting. When children reached kindergarten, they returned to the laboratory for a multimethod assessment of social withdrawal. Results confirmed the hypothesis that dysregulated fear predicted social withdrawal through protective parenting, and this occurred above and beyond the effect of traditional fearful temperament. These findings bolster support for the use of dysregulated fear as a temperamental construct related to, but perhaps more discerning of risk than traditionally measured fearful temperament/behavioral inhibition and highlight the importance of transactional influences between the individual and the caregiving environment in the development of social withdrawal.
Dysregulated fear; social withdrawal; parenting; toddlers
Rapid changes in language skills and social competence, both of which are linked to sensitive parenting, characterize early childhood. The present study examines bidirectional associations among mothers’ sensitive parenting and children’s language skills and social competence from 24 to 36 months in a community sample of 174 families. In addition, this study examines how these developmental pathways vary by child sex. Findings indicate stability across time in sensitive parenting, expressive language skills, and social competence, as well as positive main effects of sensitive parenting on expressive and receptive language skills for girls and boys. We find mixed evidence over time of reciprocal links between social competence and sensitive parenting. Further, boys’ receptive language skills at 24 months uniquely contribute to increases in mothers’ observed sensitive parenting from 24 to 36 months. These findings highlight the utility of applying transactional frameworks to the study of sex-based differences in early developmental processes.
parenting; social competence; language development; sex differences; early childhood
The aims of this article are to describe the neurobehavioral integrity of chimpanzee newborns, to investigate how early experiences affect the neurobehavioral organization of chimpanzees, and to explore species differences by comparing chimpanzee newborns to a group of typically developing human newborns. Neurobehavioral integrity related to orientation, motor performance, arousal, and state regulation of 55 chimpanzee (raised in four different settings) and 42 human newborns was measured with the Neonatal Behavioral Assessment Scale (NBAS) a semi-structured 25-minute interactive assessment. Thirty-eight chimpanzees were tested every other day from birth, and analyses revealed significant developmental changes in 19 of 27 NBAS scores. The cross-group and cross-species comparisons were conducted at 2 and 30 days of age. Among the 4 chimpanzee groups, significant differences were found in 23 of 24 NBAS scores. Surprisingly, the cross-species comparisons revealed that the human group was distinct in only 1 of 25 NBAS scores (the human group had significantly less muscle tone than all the chimpanzee groups). The human group was indistinguishable from at least one of the chimpanzee groups in the remaining 24 of 25 NBAS scores. The results of this study support the conclusion that the interplay between genes and environment, rather than genes alone or environment alone, accounts for phenotypic expressions of newborn neurobehavioral integrity in hominids.
ape; infant; epigenesis; social cognition; early development; NBAS; Brazelton test; emotion
We illustrate the utility of generalizability theory (GT) as a conceptual framework that encourages psychological researchers to address this question and as a flexible set of analytic tools that can provide answers to inform both substantive theory and measurement practice. To illustrate these capabilities, we analyze observer ratings of 27 caregiver–child dyads, focusing on the importance of situational (contextual) factors as sources of variance in observer ratings of caregiver–child behaviors. Cross-situational consistency was relatively low for the categories of behavior analyzed, indicating that dyads vary greatly in their interactional patterns from one situation to the next, so that it is difficult to predict behavioral frequencies in one context from behaviors observed in a different context. Our findings suggest that single-situation behavioral measures may have limited generalizability, either to behavior in other contexts or as measures of global interaction tendencies. We discuss the implications of these findings for research and measurement design in developmental psychology.
parent–child relationships; measurement; observer ratings; caregiver–child relationships; construct validity
Psychophysiological and cognitive performance differences exist between shy and non-shy individuals. Neuroimaging studies have shown identifiable differences in task-related cortical functioning between adults with and without sensitivity to social events. The current study compared baseline and task measures of EEG power (6–9 Hz) for 125 shy and non-shy children between the ages of 41–55 months who differed in core executive function (EF) skills. Results indicated an increase in medial frontal EEG power from baseline-to-task for high EF performers (shy and non-shy). Shy/low EF performers also demonstrated this increase, but the non-shy/low EF group did not. For the medial parietal region, only the shy children (high and low EF performers) showed an increase in power from baseline-to-task; and for the shy/high EF group, left hemisphere power was greater than the right during baseline and task. This study is believed to be the first continuous-recording EEG comparison between children who are shy and non-shy in the context of an EF assessment. These findings highlight differences in medial frontal and medial parietal power for children who differ in shyness and EF skills. They also suggest the value of future research examining strong EF skills as protective and regulatory for shy children.
This study examined the prevalence and determinants of spanking of children at 3 years-of-age, and the associations between spanking and externalizing behavior and receptive verbal ability at age 5. Overall, we find maternal spanking rates of 55.2% and paternal rates of 43.2% at age 3. Mothers facing greater stress and those who spanked earlier are more likely to spank at age 3, whereas those who report a supportive partner during pregnancy and those who were not U.S. born were less likely to spank. Mothers and fathers in communities where spanking was more normative were more likely to spank. Fathers were less likely to spank daughters at age 3. Frequent maternal spanking at age 3 was associated with externalizing behavior and receptive vocabulary at age 5, controlling for an array of ecological risks, earlier behavior, and verbal capacity. Taking advantage of the large and diverse sample we explored potential interactions and found no evidence that race, parental warmth, normativeness, or child gender moderated the association between spanking and externalizing or receptive vocabulary. These findings add to the literature on negative consequences associated with a widely endorsed parenting practice, and highlight the need for research that explores alternative effective discipline practices and addresses parent questions of what else they could, or even should, be doing.
Faces are visually attractive to both human and nonhuman primates. Human neonates are thought to have a broad template for faces at birth and prefer face-like to non-face-like stimuli. To better compare developmental trajectories of face processing phylogenetically, here we investigated preferences for face-like stimuli in infant rhesus macaques using photographs of real faces. We presented infant macaques aged 15–25days with human, macaque, and abstract faces with both normal and linear arrangements of facial features, and measured infants’ gaze durations, number of fixations, and latency to look to each face using eye-tracking technology. There was an overall preference for normal over linear facial arrangements for abstract and monkey faces, but not human faces. Moreover, infant macaques looked less at monkey faces than at abstract or human faces. These results suggest that species and facial configurations affect face processing in infant macaques, and we discuss potential explanations for these findings. Further, carefully controlled studies are required to ascertain whether infant macaques’ face template can be considered as broad as human infants’ face template.
Rhesus Macaque; Infant; Face Perception; Eyes; Eye Tracking
Recent research has demonstrated that social responsiveness (comprised of social awareness, social information processing, reciprocal social communication, social motivation, and repetitive/restricted interests) is continuously distributed within the general population. In the present study, we consider temperament as a co-occurring source of individual differences in social responsiveness in young children. The sample consisted of 62 infants assessed at 2-, 3-, and 4-years-old. Measures of temperament were obtained at each age (Early Childhood Behavior Questionnaire, Children’s Behavior Questionnaire) and social responsiveness was measured at 4-years-old (Social Responsiveness Scale; SRS). Multivariate patterns of association between components of temperament and social responsiveness were observed at each age, with overall findings in line with the broader literature examining temperament and socio-development associations. Importantly, these results provide support for the usefulness of temperament as a relevant source of variability in social responsiveness, as measured by the SRS, in typically developing young children.
Temperament; Social Responsiveness; Social Competence; Infant; Child; Individual Differences
This study examined the contribution of child temperament, parenting, and their interaction on inhibitory control development in a sample of maltreated and non-maltreated preschool children. One hundred and eighteen mother–child dyads were drawn from predominantly low-income, rural communities. Dyads participated in a laboratory session in which maternal warm autonomy support, warm guidance, and strict/hostile control were observationally coded during a joint teaching task. Independent assessments of children’s inhibitory control were obtained, and observers rated children’s temperament. After relevant covariates, including income, maternal education, and child age and IQ were controlled for, there were no differences between the maltreatment and non-maltreatment groups in either children’s inhibitory control or mothers’ behaviours in the laboratory session. Even after much of the variance in children’s inhibitory control was accounted for from the covariates, children’s temperamental negativity moderated the effects of warm autonomy support on inhibitory control in both maltreatment and non-maltreatment groups. Temperamentally negative children whose mothers displayed more warm autonomy support showed greater inhibitory control, at levels on par with low-negative children. Findings suggest that heterogeneity in children’s self-regulation may be due in part to individual differences in sensitivity to caregiver support for children’s independence, even among those exposed to maltreatment.
temperament; parenting; inhibitory control; preschool; maltreatment; self-regulation
Maternal expressive styles, based on a combination of positive and negative expressive patterns, were identified at two points in time and related to multiple aspects of preschool children's emotional development. Mother–child pairs from 260 families participated when the children were 3 years old, and 240 participated again at aged 4 years. Expressive styles were identified at age 3 using cluster analysis, replicated at age 4 and examined in relation to children's emotional understanding, expressiveness and regulation. Three expressive styles were identified: high positive/low negative, very low positive/average negative and average positive/very high negative. Cluster membership was stable in 63% of families from age 3 to 4 years; no systematic patterns of change were evident in the remaining families. Expressive style was related to aspects of children's emotional expression at 3 years and to emotion expression and regulation at 4 years. Children's expressiveness and regulation at age 3 were also related to changes in mothers' expressive styles over 1 year. Identifying mothers' expressive styles provides a unique way to understand the potential role of the emotional climates in which preschool-aged children learn to express and regulate their own emotions.
emotional climate; positive expressiveness; negative expressiveness; emotion knowledge; emotional expression; emotion regulation
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