Infant Regulation of Distress: A longitudinal study of transactions between mothers and infants
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Attachment theory has emphasised how important sensitive and prompt caregiving is for the development of attachment between the child and the caregiver, and how attachment-related processes contribute to the development of the child’s self-regulation skills. In contrast, theories of temperament has emphasised intra-individual differences, such as biological differences in reactivity and regulation. The transactional model describes the development of relational history between the caregiver and the infant as individual-environmental transactions that also involve the development of emotional regulation skills in the infant. These transactions were investigated in a sample of fifty mothers and infants who participated in five studies that took place from the infants were 2 to 17 months of age. To test the transactional model empirically, the project has focused on factors related to infants’ social skills and biological characteristics, sensitive caregiving, context, and on the interplay between these factors during distressing events. Early social communication skills in infants were evidenced as sensitivity to violation of social contingency during face-to-face communication with the mothers, but only among infants who expressed few signs of negative affect (Paper I). Then, mothers’ sensitivity to violation of social contingency during face-to-face interaction was investigated as a further test of infants’ social contribution to social interactions. Mothers’ Infant Directed speech was found to depend on the quality of infants’ responsiveness, which then suggests that infants are actively involved in early interaction (Paper II). It was then found a non-linear relation between maternal soothing and infants’ distress responses to acute pain, and early attentional control in the infants were found to correspond with maternal soothing behaviour. The results suggest that biological and context-dependent maternal and infant responses to distressing events are mutually regulated (Paper III). The transactional hypothesis was empirically confirmed when combining data from a short longitudinal time interval (data from the infants at 2 months and at 3 months), but not when prolonging the time interval of the longitudinal analyses to include the infants’ distress responses at 3-, 15-, and 17 months of age (Paper I, Paper II, Paper III, Study 4, Study 5). It is suggested that future research should explore combinations of early multiple factors involved in the development of infant regulation skills.
Paper I: Braarud, H. C. & Stormark, K. M., Expression of Negative Affect During Face-to-Face Interaction: A Double Video Study of Young Infants Sensitivity to Social Contingency. Preprint. To be published in Infant and Child Development. Copyright John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.Paper II: Braarud, H. C. & Stormark, K. M., Prosodic modification and vocal adjustments in mothers` speech during face-to-face interaction with their 2-and 3-months old infants: A double Video Study. Submitted to The Journal of Reproductive and Infant Development. Copyright Taylor & Francis.Paper III: Infant Behaviour & Development 29, Braarud, H. C. & Stormark, K. M., Maternal soothing and infant distress responses: Soothing, crying and adrenocortical activity during inoculation, pp. 70-79. Copyright 2006 Elsevier. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.infbeh.2005.08.008