Infant reactivity to frustrating events, attention regulation, and maternal behavior Predictors of aggressive behavior at 2 1/2 years
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Slide 1 :
Infant Reactivity to Frustrating Events, Attention Regulation, and Maternal Behavior: Predictors of Aggressive Behavior at 2½ years Susan Crockenberg Esther Leerkes Patricia Bárrig
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Abstract The study tested reactivity to frustrating events and attention regulation as predictors of aggressive behavior, and moderating effects of mothers’ behavior. Participants were 64 low-risk mothers and infants. Mothers rated infant reactivity at 5m and aggressive behavior at 2½ yrs; infant and maternal behaviors were observed at 6m. Infant reactivity and attention to frustrating events predicted aggressive behavior independently, but mothers moderated the effect of infant reactivity on later aggression. High reactivity to limits predicted aggressive behavior when mothers encouraged infant attention to the frustrating event. Infant gender interacted with maternal behavior, but this was not independent of the reactivity x maternal behavior interaction. Shifting attention away from the frustrating event at 6m was associated with less aggressive behavior at 2½ yrs for girls only.
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Background and Current Study Together, infant reactivity and regulation contribute to behavioral development and adjustment (Rothbart & Bates, 1998). High reactivity to limits and poor regulation have been linked to early and later aggressive behavior (Belsky, Hsieh, & Crnic, 1998; Calkins & Johnson, 1998). Parental caregiving affects infant emotion regulation and also stability and change in aggressive behavior (Campbell, Shaw, & Gilliom, 2000). This study investigates the joint prediction of infant reactivity and regulation and moderating effects of infant gender and maternal behavior on aggressive behavior over time.
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Attention Regulation Changes in the infant’s ability to voluntarily disengage gaze increases around 4 months (Johnson, Posner, & Rothbart, 1991). Enabling infants to shift attention to regulate distress to frustrating events by 6 months (Axia, Bonichini, & Benini, 1999; Stifter & Braungart, 1995). Therefore, infants who learn to shift attention away from frustrating events are expected to be less aggressive later on. Female infants may develop self-regulation more rapidly than males (Stifter & Spinrad, 2002; Weinberg, Tronick, Cohn, & Olson, 1999). If male infants lack effective regulation behaviors, they may rely more on their mothers to regulate distress than female infants.
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Maternal Regulation of Infant Reactivity Mothers reduce the link between infant reactivity and aggression, possibly by fostering emotion regulation (Feldman, Greenbaum, & Yirmiya, 1999. Mothers appear also to exacerbate early reactivity by interfering with infant self-regulation, thereby increasing later aggression (Calkins & Johnson, 1998; Rubin et al, 1998) Thus, mothers both increase and decrease later aggression by encouraging or discouraging infant attention shifting. And mothers’ impact on later aggression may be greater for males who (may) learn to shift attention later than females.
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Hypotheses H1. Females shift attention away from frustrating events > males; males attend to frustrating events > females. H2. Infant distress and attention to frustrating events correlate positively, attention shifting correlates negatively w/ aggression. H3. Infant attention to/away from frustrating events correlate positively w/ mothers’ encouragement of those behaviors. H4. Easily frustrated infants high in attention to or low in looking away from frustrating events are more aggressive. H5. Attention shifting more strongly associated w/ aggression for females; attention to frustrating events stronger for males. H6. Easily frustrated infants more aggressive if mothers support attention to frustrating events, or do not support looking away. H7. Maternal behaviors predict aggression more for males than females.
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Methods Sample 64 low-risk mothers and children (38 males) participated Primarily Caucasian, married, and middle-income Procedures and Measures Infant Reactivity (distress to limits): Mothers completed the Infant Behavior Questionnaire (Rothbart, 1981) at 5m. Infant and Maternal Behaviors: Observations of infant and mother behaviors in laboratory at 6m. Two counterbalanced frustrating tasks (toy take away, arm restraint) Mother uninvolved during 1st task, involved in 2nd task. Children’s Aggressive Behavior: Mothers completed the Child Behavior Checklist/2-3 (Achenbach, 1992) at 2½ yrs.
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Methods (continuation) Infant and maternal behaviors coded continuously and reliably from videotapes Attend to frustrating event: % time infant inspected source of frustration Shift attention away from frustrating event: % time infant looked at another object or looked at mother. Encourage attention to: % time mothers encourage child to look at frustrating event. Encourage looking away from: % time mothers encourage child to look away from the frustrating event.
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Significant Results H1. Males attend to frustrating event > females. H2. Distress and attention to the frustrating event correlated positively with later aggression. H4/5. Attention shifting predicted less aggression in girls but did not moderate effect of distress on aggression. H6. Distress to limits predicted later aggression only if mothers encouraged attention to source of frustration. H7. Maternal encourage attention to the frustrating event predicted higher aggression in males only.
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Table 1: Multiple Regression: Predicting Aggressive Behavior at 2½ from Infant and Mother Variables (N= 64) Predictors ? a B R2 change ? b ? c _________________________________________________________________________ 1. IBQ Distress to Limits .33** .02 .17 Child Gender .18 .01 .50 Attention To .36* .27 .42** Look Away -.07 -.04 .29 Maternal Encourage Attention .16 .01 .21** -.41 Interaction Effects a,b,c Gender x Look Away -.95* -.31 .07* -.95** -.47 Distress x Encourage Attention 1.43* .02 .05* 1.23* 1.17t Gender x Encourage Attention -.92* -.02 .03 -.65 -.59 Total .35** _________________________________________________________________________ Note: N = 64; B = unstandardized beta, ? = standardized beta a at entry, c on final step ; tp=..06 *p < .05; **p < .01;. a Each interaction effect evaluated for significance independent of main effects (entered in block 1) only. b Maternal behavior interactions entered in block 3 after entry of block 1 and the gender x look away interaction in block 2. c All interaction effects entered simultaneously in block 2.
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Moderating Effect of Maternal Encourage Attention Toward the Task on Infant Distress to Limits and Aggression
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Conclusions and Implications Attending to the frustrating event a 6m is the single strongest predictor of aggression at 2 ½, and is more frequent in males. Shifting attention away from a frustrating event may not serve a regulating function for males at 6 m, or may be counterbalanced by the greater tendency of boys to attend to the frustrating event. Mothers of infants who look away encourage their attention to the event...increasing the risk of later aggression for easily frustrated (and male) infants. This demonstrates that mothers influence the developmental trajectories of their reactive infants in the first 3 years, and suggests a possible point of intervention.
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