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Child Development, 9/e
Laura E. Berk
©2012 / ISBN: 9780205149766
Chapter begins on next page >
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“Love of Mother”
Name Unknown, 15 years, Korea
Assertively grasping his mother’s hand, a young child ventures confidently into the wider world.
A secure attachment bond with a warm, sensitive caregiver provides children with vital support for
exploring and mastering their environment.
Reprinted with permission from the International Collection of Child Art, Milner Library, Illinois State University,
Normal, Illinois
Emotional Development
Functions of Emotions
n a spring day, 4-month-old Zach, cradled in his father’s arms, arrived at
the door of my classroom, which had been transformed into a playroom for
the morning. Behind him, led by their mothers, came 13-month-old Emily
and 23-month-old Brenda. My students and I spent the next hour watching
the three children closely. Especially captivating were the children’s emotional reactions
to people and objects. Zach grinned gleefully as his dad lifted him in the air, and he
responded with an excited giggle to a tickle followed by a lively kiss on the tummy.
When I offered Zach a rattle, his brows knit, his face sobered, and he eyed the rattle
intently as he mobilized all his energies to reach for it.
Transferred to my arms and then to the laps of several students, Zach remained at
ease (although he reserved a particularly broad smile for his father). In contrast, Emily
and Brenda were wary. When I offered a toy and coaxed Emily toward it, she pulled
back and glanced at her mother, as if to check whether the new adult and tantalizing
object were safe to explore. With her mother’s encouragement, Emily approached cautiously and accepted the toy. A greater capacity to understand the situation, along with
her mother’s explanations, helped Brenda adjust, and soon she was engrossed in play.
During the hour, Brenda displayed a wide range of emotions, including embarrassment
at seeing chocolate on her chin in a mirror and pride as I remarked on the tall block
tower she had built.
Emotional development—formerly overshadowed by cognition—is an exciting, rapidly expanding area of research. Our discussion opens with the functions of emotions in
all aspects of human activity. Next, we chart age-related gains in children’s emotional
expression and understanding. We will account for Zach, Emily, and Brenda’s expanding
emotional capacities as they engage in increasingly complex interactions with their
changing physical and social worlds. Our attention then turns to individual differences
in temperament and personality. We will examine biological and environmental contributions to these differences and their consequences for future development. Finally,
we look at attachment to the caregiver—the infant’s first affectionate tie. We will see
how the feelings of security that grow out of this bond support the child’s exploration,
sense of independence, and expanding social relationships. ■
Functions of Emotions
Emotions and Cognitive Processing •
Emotions and Social Behavior • Emotions
and Health • Other Features of the
Functionalist Approach
Parental Depression and Child
Development of Emotional
Basic Emotions • Self-Conscious
Emotions • Emotional Self-Regulation •
Acquiring Emotional Display Rules
Understanding and Responding to
the Emotions of Others
Social Referencing • Emotional
Understanding in Childhood • Empathy
and Sympathy
Temperament and Development
The Structure of Temperament •
Measuring Temperament • Stability
of Temperament • Genetic and
Environmental Influences •
Temperament as a Predictor of Children’s
Behavior • Temperament and Child
Rearing: The Goodness-of-Fit Model
Development of Shyness and Sociability
Development of Attachment
Bowlby’s Ethological Theory • Measuring
the Security of Attachment • Stability of
Attachment • Cultural Variations •
Factors That Affect Attachment Security •
Multiple Attachments • Attachment and
Later Development
Role of Paternal Warmth in Development
Attachment, Parental Employment,
and Child Care
Care Threaten Infant Attachment Security
and Later Adjustment?
TAKE A MOMENT... Think back over the past day or so. Do you recall feeling
happy, sad, fearful, or angry in response to a grade on a test or a conversation with a
friend? These events trigger emotion because you care about their outcomes. Your
emotion is a rapid appraisal of the personal significance of the situation, which prepares you for action. For example, happiness leads you to approach, sadness to passively withdraw, fear to actively move away, and anger to overcome obstacles. An
emotion, then, expresses your readiness to establish, maintain, or change your relation
to the environment on a matter of importance to you (Campos, Frankel, & Camras,
2004; Saarni et al., 2006).
A number of theorists take a functionalist approach to emotion, emphasizing that
the broad function of emotions is to energize behavior aimed at attaining personal goals
(Barrett & Campos, 1987; Campos, Frankel, & Camras, 2004; Frijda, 2000; Saarni et al.,
PART IV Personality and Social Development
2006). Events can become personally relevant in several ways. First, you may already have a goal
in mind, such as doing well on a test, so the testing situation prompts strong emotion. Second,
others’ social behavior may alter a situation’s significance for you, as when a friend visits and you
respond warmly to her friendly greeting. Third, any sensation or state of mind—a sight, sound,
taste, smell, touch, memory, or imagining—can become personally relevant and evoke emotion,
positive or negative. Your emotional reaction, in turn, affects your desire to repeat the experience.
In each case, emotions arise from ongoing exchanges between the person and the environment, flexibly serving different functions as the individual’s circumstances change
(Thompson, Winer, & Goovin, 2011). Functionalist theorists believe that emotions are central in all our endeavors—cognitive processing, social behavior, and even physical health.
Let’s see how emotions organize and regulate experiences in each domain.
Describe the functionalist
approach to emotional
This 17-year-old, an experienced
guitarist, is well-prepared for performance. Nevertheless, he reports
that high anxiety sometimes interferes, diverting his attention from
the cognitive demands of guitar
Emotions and Cognitive Processing
Emotional reactions can lead to learning that is essential for survival. For
example, a caregiver’s highly charged “No!” is sufficient to keep most newly
walking toddlers from touching an electric outlet or careening down a staircase.
The toddler need not experience a shock or a fall to avoid these dangers.
The emotion–cognition relationship is evident in the impact of anxiety
on performance. Among children and adults, high anxiety impairs thinking,
especially on complex tasks, by diverting attention from cognitive processing
to task-irrelevant threatening stimuli and worrisome thoughts (Derakshan
& Eysenck, 2009). Emotions can also powerfully affect memory. For example,
compared to their less stressed agemates, preschool and school-age children
who were highly upset by an inoculation at the doctor’s office tended to remember the event better, probably because they focused more attention on the
threatening experience (Alexander et al., 2002; Goodman et al., 1991).
The relationship between emotion and cognition is bidirectional—a dynamic
interplay already under way in early infancy (Lewis, 1999). In one study, researchers taught 2- to 8-month-olds to pull a string to activate pleasurable sights and
sounds. As the infants learned the task, they responded with interest, happiness,
and surprise. Then, for a short period, pulling the string no longer turned on the
attractive stimuli. The babies’ emotional reactions quickly changed—mostly to
anger but occasionally to sadness. Once the contingency was restored, the infants
who had reacted angrily showed renewed interest and enjoyment, whereas the sad
babies turned away (Lewis, Sullivan, & Ramsay, 1992). Emotions were interwoven
with cognitive processing, serving as outcomes of mastery and as the energizing
force for continued involvement and learning.
Emotions and Social Behavior
Children’s emotional signals, such as smiling, crying, and attentive interest, powerfully affect
the behavior of others. Similarly, the emotional reactions of others regulate children’s social
Careful analyses of caregiver–infant interaction reveal that by 3 months, a complex communication system is in place in which each partner responds in an appropriate and carefully timed fashion to the other’s cues (Weinberg et al., 1999). In several studies, researchers
disrupted this exchange of emotional signals by having the parent assume either a still-faced,
unreactive pose or a depressed emotional state. Two- to 7-month-olds tried facial expressions, vocalizations, and body movements to get the parent to respond again. When these
efforts failed, they turned away, frowned, and cried (Moore, Cohn, & Campbell, 2001;
Papousek, 2007). This still-face reaction occurs only when natural human communication is
disrupted (not to a still-faced doll or to the mother wearing a still-faced mask) and is identical in American, Canadian, and Chinese babies, suggesting that it is a built-in withdrawal
response to caregivers’ lack of communication (Kisilevsky et al., 1998; Legerstee & Markova,
CHAPTER 10 Emotional Development
2007). Clearly, when engaged in face-to-face interaction, even young infants expect their
partners to be emotionally responsive. To learn more about the impact of parental depression on children’s emotional and social adjustment, consult the Biology and Environment
box on page 402.
With age, emotional expressions become deliberate means through which infants communicate, and babies monitor the emotional expressions of others to assess their intentions
and perspectives. For example, caregivers initiate nearly all positive emotional exchanges with
young babies. But by 9 months, infants become initiators, smiling before the caregiver smiles
(Cohn & Tronick, 1987). Furthermore, recall from Chapter 9 that by the end of the first year,
babies become increasingly skilled at joint attention—following the caregiver’s line of regard.
In these joint attentional episodes, infants and toddlers pick up not only verbal information
but also emotional information. Later in this chapter, we will see that when faced with unfamiliar people, objects, or events, older infants pay close attention to their caregiver’s affect,
using it as a guide for how to respond. Through this checking of others’ emotions, called
social referencing, young children learn how to behave in a great many everyday situations.
One 18-month-old, on first witnessing his newborn sister cry, monitored his mother’s reaction. On subsequent occasions, he patted the baby and comforted, “No, no, Peach [her nickname], no tears.”
Emotions and Health
Much research indicates that emotions influence children’s physical well-being. In Chapter 5,
we discussed two childhood growth disorders—growth faltering and psychosocial dwarfism—
that involve emotional deprivation. Many other studies indicate that persistent psychological
stress, manifested in anxiety, depressed mood, anger, and irritability, is associated with a
variety of health difficulties from infancy to adulthood. For example, stress elevates heart rate
and blood pressure and depresses the immune response—reactions that may explain its relationship with cardiovascular disease, infectious illness, and several forms of cancer. Stress also
reduces digestive activity as blood flows to the brain, heart, and extremities to mobilize the
body for action. Consequently, it can lead to gastrointestinal difficulties, including constipation, diarrhea, colitis, and ulcers (Antoni & Lutgendorf, 2007; Ray, 2004). And stress not only
induces illness but results from it—a feedback loop that can cause both to worsen over time.
In a dramatic demonstration of the emotion–health relationship, researchers followed
children adopted into Canadian homes who had been exposed to chronic stress as a result of
at least 8 months of early rearing in extremely depleted Romanian orphanages, where they
lacked adult attention and stimulation and suffered from infectious and dietary diseases—
most commonly, intestinal parasites, hepatitis, and anemia. Compared with healthy agemates
who had been adopted shortly after birth, these physically ill, emotionally deprived children
showed extreme reactivity to stress, as indicated by high concentrations of the stress hormone
cortisol in their saliva—a physiological response linked to persistent illness and learning and
behavior problems, including deficits in concentration and control of anger and other
impulses. The longer the children spent in orphanage care, the higher their cortisol levels,
even six and a half years after adoption (Gunnar et al., 2001; Gunnar & Cheatham, 2003). In
other investigations, orphanage children displayed abnormally low cortisol—a blunted physiological stress response that may be the central nervous system’s adaptation to earlier,
frequent cortisol elevations (Loman & Gunnar, 2010). Extremely low cortisol interferes with
release of growth hormone (GH) and, thus, can stunt children’s physical growth.
Fortunately, sensitive adult care helps normalize cortisol production in both typically
developing and emotionally traumatized infants and young children. Good parenting seems
to protect the young brain from the potentially damaging effects of both excessive and inadequate stress-hormone exposure (Gunnar & Quevedo, 2007; Tarullo & Gunnar, 2006). After
adoption into caring families, orphanage children’s cortisol production moves toward typical
levels, and growth and behavior problems lessen (Gunnar & Vasquez, 2001). Nevertheless,
as we saw in Chapter 4 and will see again in this chapter, many institutionalized children
adopted after spending much of their first year in deprived institutions suffer from serious,
lasting adjustment difficulties.
PART IV Personality and Social Development
bout 8 to 10 percent of women experience
chronic depression—mild to severe feelings of sadness, distress, and withdrawal
that continue for months or years. Often, the
beginnings of this emotional state cannot be pinpointed. In other instances, depression emerges
or strengthens after childbirth but fails to subside
as the new mother adjusts to hormonal changes
in her body and gains confidence in caring for
her baby. This is called postpartum depression.
Although it is less recognized and studied,
fathers, too, experience chronic depression.
About 3 to 5 percent of fathers report symptoms
after the birth of a child (Madsen & Juhl, 2007;
Thombs, Roseman, & Arthurs, 2010). Parental
depression can interfere with effective parenting
and seriously impair children’s development.
Genetic makeup increases the risk of depressive
illness, but social and cultural factors are also
Maternal Depression
During Julia’s pregnancy, her husband, Kyle,
showed so little interest in the baby that Julia
worried that having a child might be a mistake.
Then, shortly after Lucy was born, Julia’s mood
plunged. She felt anxious and weepy, overwhelmed by Lucy’s needs, and angry at loss
of control over her own schedule. When Julia
approached Kyle about her own fatigue and his
unwillingness to help with the baby, he snapped
that she was overreacting. Julia’s childless
friends stopped by just once to see Lucy but
did not call again.
Julia’s depressed mood quickly affected her
baby. In the weeks after birth, infants of
depressed mothers sleep poorly, are less attentive to their surroundings, and have elevated
levels of the stress hormone cortisol (Field,
1998). The more extreme the depression and the
greater the number of stressors in a mother’s life
(such as marital discord, little or no social support, and poverty), the more the parent–child
relationship suffers (Simpson et al., 2003). Julia
rarely smiled at, comforted, or talked to Lucy,
who responded to her mother’s sad, vacant gaze
by turning away, crying, and often looking sad
or angry herself (Feldman et al., 2009; Field,
2011). Julia, in turn, felt guilty and inadequate,
and her depression deepened. By age 6 months,
Lucy showed symptoms common in babies of
depressed mothers—delays in motor and mental development, an irritable mood, and attachment difficulties (Cornish et al., 2005; McMahon
et al., 2006).
Parental Depression and Child Development
When maternal
depression persists,
the parent–child
relationship worsens.
Depressed mothers
view their infants and
children more negatively than independent observers do
(Forman et al., 2007).
And they use inconsistent discipline—sometimes lax, at other
times too forceful. As
we will see in later
chapters, children who
experience these maladaptive parenting
practices often have
serious adjustment probThis depressed mother appears completely disengaged from her infant. In
response, the baby is likely to become negative and irritable, to eventually
lems. Some withdraw into
withdraw, and to develop serious emotional and behavior problems.
a depressed mood themselves; others become
impulsive and aggressive
pessimistic worldview—one in which they lack
(Hay et al., 2003). In one study, infants born to
self-confidence and perceive their parents and
mothers who were depressed during pregnancy
other people as threatening. Children who conwere four times as likely as babies of nondestantly feel in danger are especially likely to
pressed mothers to have engaged in violent
become overly aroused in stressful situations,
antisocial behavior (such as fighting, bullying,
easily losing control in the face of cognitive
assault with a weapon, and extreme bodily
and social challenges (Sturge-Apple et al., 2008).
harm) by age 16, after other stressors in the
Although children of depressed parents may
mother’s life that could contribute to youth
inherit a tendency to develop emotional and
antisocial conduct had been controlled (Hay
behavior problems, quality of parenting is a
et al., 2010).
major factor in their adjustment.
Paternal Depression
Paternal depression is also linked to dissatisfaction with marriage and family life after
childbirth and to other life stressors, including
job loss and divorce (Bielawska-Batorowicz &
Kossakowska-Petrycka, 2006). In a study of a
large representative sample of British parents
and babies, researchers assessed depressive
symptoms of fathers shortly after birth and
again the following year. Then they tracked the
children’s development into the preschool years.
Persistent paternal depression was, like maternal depression, a strong predictor of child
behavior problems—especially overactivity,
defiance, and aggression in boys (Ramchandani
et al., 2008).
Paternal depression is linked to frequent
father–child conflict as children grow older
(Kane & Garber, 2004). Over time, children
subjected to parental negativity develop a
Early treatment is vital to prevent parental
depression from interfering with the parent–
child relationship. Julia’s doctor referred her to
a therapist, who helped Julia and Kyle with
their marital problems. At times, antidepressant
medication is prescribed.
In addition to alleviating parental depression, therapy that encourages depressed
mothers to revise their negative views of their
babies and to engage in emotionally positive,
responsive caregiving is vital for reducing young
children’s attachment and other developmental problems (Forman et al., 2007). When a
depressed parent does not respond easily to
treatment, a warm relationship with the other
parent or another caregiver can safeguard
children’s development (Mezulis, Hyde, &
Clark, 2004).
CHAPTER 10 Emotional Development
Other Features of the Functionalist Approach
In addition to the vital role of emotions in cognitive, social, and physical development, functionalist theorists point out that emotions contribute to the emergence of self-awareness. For
example, the interest and excitement that babies display when acting on novel objects help
them forge a sense of self-efficacy—confidence in their own ability to control events in their
surroundings (Harter, 2006). By the middle of the second year, when self-awareness is
sufficiently developed, children begin to experience a new array of emotions with distinct
functions. Recall Brenda’s expressions of pride and embarrassment—two self-conscious emotions that have to do with evaluating the self ’s goodness or badness in relation to standards
for morality, social behavior, and task mastery (Saarni et al., 2006).
Finally, the functionalist approach emphasizes that to adapt to their physical and social
worlds, children must gain control over their emotions, just as they do their motor, cognitive, and social behavior. As part of this increasing emotional self-regulation, children must
master their culture’s rules for when and how to convey emotion. As a result, by late childhood, few emotions are expressed as openly and freely as they were in the early years of life.
With these ideas in mind, let’s chart the course of emotional development.
■ Using research findings, provide an example of
the impact of emotions on children’s (1) cognitive processing,
(2) social behavior, and (3) physical health.
Connect ■ Does the still-face reaction help us understand
infants’ responses to parental depressed mood, reviewed in the
Biology and Environment box on page 402? Explain.
Apply ■ Recently divorced, Jeannine—mother of 3-month-old
Jacob—feels lonely, depressed, and anxious about finances. How
might Jeannine’s emotional state affect Jacob’s emotional and
social adjustment? What can be done to help Jeannine and
■ Using one of your own experiences, illustrate the
bidirectional relationship between emotion and cognition.
Development of Emotional Expression
Because infants cannot describe their feelings, determining exactly which emotions they
are experiencing is a challenge. Although vocalizations and body movements provide some
information, researchers have relied most on facial expressions. Cross-cultural evidence
reveals that people around the world associate photographs of different facial expressions
with emotions in the same way (Ekman, 2003; Ekman & Friesen, 1972). These findings
inspired researchers to analyze infants’ facial patterns carefully to determine the range of
emotions they display at different ages.
Nevertheless, assuming a close correspondence between a pattern of behavior and an
underlying emotional state can lead to error. Infants, children, and adults use diverse
responses to express a particular emotion. For example, babies on the visual cliff (see page
159 in Chapter 4) generally do not display a fearful facial expression, though they do show
other signs of fear—drawing back and refusing to crawl over the deep side. Recall, also, from
Chapter 4 that the emotional expressions of blind babies, who cannot make eye contact, are
muted, prompting parents to withdraw (see page 162). When therapists show parents how
blind infants express emotions through finger movements, parents become more interactive
(Fraiberg, 1971; Saarni et al., 2006). Furthermore, the same general response can express
several emotions. Depending on the situation, a smile might convey joy, embarrassment,
contempt, or a social greeting.
In line with the dynamic systems perspective (see page 30 in Chapter 1), emotional expressions vary with the person’s developing capacities, goals, and context (Lewis, 2000, 2008). To
How does the expression of
basic emotions change during
Describe the development
of self-conscious emotions,
emotional self-regulation,
and conformity to emotional
display rules.
PART IV Personality and Social Development
infer babies’ emotions more accurately, researchers must attend to multiple interacting expressive cues—vocal, facial, and gestural—and see how they differ across situations believed to
elicit different emotions.
Basic Emotions
© R A DI U S I M A G E S / A L A M Y I M A G ES
Basic emotions—happiness, interest, surprise, fear, anger, sadness, disgust—are universal in
humans and other primates and have a long evolutionary history of promoting survival. Do
infants come into the world with the ability to express basic emotions? Although signs of
some emotions are present, babies’ earliest emotional life consists of little more than two
global arousal states: attraction to pleasant stimulation and withdrawal from unpleasant
stimulation (Camras et al., 2003; Fox, 1991). Only gradually do emotions become clear, wellorganized signals.
The dynamic systems perspective helps us understand how this happens: Children coordinate separate skills into more effective, emotionally expressive systems as the central nervous system develops and the child’s goals and experiences change (Camras & Shutter, 2010).
Videotaping the facial expressions of her daughter from 6 to 14 weeks, Linda Camras (1992)
found that in the early weeks, the baby displayed a fleeting angry face as she was about to cry
and a sad face as her crying waned. These expressions first appeared on the way to or away
from full-blown distress and were not clearly linked to the baby’s experiences and desires.
With age, she was better able to sustain an angry signal when she encountered a blocked goal
and a sad signal when she could not overcome an obstacle.
According to one view, sensitive, contingent caregiver communication, in which parents
selectively mirror aspects of the baby’s diffuse emotional behavior, helps infants construct
emotional expressions that more closely resemble those of adults (Gergely & Watson, 1999).
With age, face, gaze, voice, and posture start to form organized patterns that vary meaningfully with environmental events. For example, by the middle of the first year, babies typically
respond to the parent’s playful interaction with a joyful face, pleasant babbling, and a relaxed
posture, as if to say, “This is fun!” In contrast, an unresponsive parent often evokes a sad
face, fussy sounds, and a drooping body (sending the message, “I’m despondent”) or an
angry face, crying, and “pick me up” gestures (as if to say, “Change this unpleasant event!”)
(Weinberg & Tronick, 1994; Yale et al., 1999). Gradually, emotional expressions become
well-organized and specific—and therefore provide more precise information about the
baby’s internal state.
Four basic emotions—happiness, anger, sadness, and fear—have received the most
research attention. Let’s see how they develop.
A baby’s joyous laughter encourages his mother to respond
in kind, binding them together in a warm, affectionate
relationship that promotes all aspects of development.
Happiness Happiness—expressed first in blissful smiles, later through
exuberant laughter—contributes to many aspects of development. When
infants achieve new skills, they smile and laugh, displaying delight in
motor and cognitive mastery. As the smile encourages caregivers to be
affectionate and stimulating, the baby smiles even more (Aksan & Kochanska, 2004). Happiness binds parent and child into a warm, supportive
relationship that fosters the infant’s developing competencies.
During the early weeks, newborn babies smile when full, during REM
sleep, and in response to gentle touches and sounds, such as stroking of the
skin, rocking, and the mother’s soft, high-pitched voice. By the end of the
first month, infants smile at dynamic, eye-catching sights, such as a bright
object jumping suddenly across their field of vision. And as infants attend
to the parent’s face, and the parent talks and smiles, babies knit their brows,
open their mouths to coo, and move their arms and legs excitedly, gradually becoming more emotionally positive until, between 6 and 10 weeks,
the parent’s communication evokes a broad grin called the social smile
(Lavelli & Fogel, 2005; Sroufe & Waters, 1976). These changes parallel the
development of infant perceptual capacities—in particular, babies’ sensitivity to visual patterns, including the human face (see Chapter 4). And social
CHAPTER 10 Emotional Development
smiling becomes better organized and stable as babies learn to use it to evoke and sustain
pleasurable face-to-face interaction.
Laughter, which appears around 3 to 4 months, reflects faster processing of information
than smiling. But as with smiling, the first laughs occur in response to very active stimuli,
such as the parent saying playfully, “I’m gonna get you!” and kissing the baby’s tummy. As
infants understand more about their world, they laugh at events with subtler elements of
surprise, such as a silent game of peekaboo (Sroufe & Wunsch, 1972).
Around the middle of the first year, infants smile and laugh more
when interacting with familiar people, a preference that strengthens
the parent–child bond. Between 8 and 10 months, infants more
often interrupt their play with an interesting toy to relay their
delight to an attentive adult (Venezia et al., 2004). And like adults,
10- to 12-month-olds have several smiles, which vary with context—
a broad, “cheek-raised” smile in response to a parent’s greeting; a
reserved, muted smile for a friendly stranger; and a “mouth-open”
smile during stimulating play (Bolzani et al., 2002; Messinger &
Fogel, 2007). By the end of the first year, the smile has become a
deliberate social signal.
Anger and Sadness Newborn babies respond with generalized
distress to a variety of unpleasant experiences, including hunger,
painful medical procedures, changes in body temperature, and too
much or too little stimulation (see Chapter 4). From 4 to 6 months
into the second year, angry expressions increase in frequency and
intensity (Braungart-Rieker, Hill-Soderlund, & Karrass, 2010). Older
infants also react with anger in a wider range of situations—when an interesting object or
event is removed, an expected pleasant event does not occur, their arms are restrained,
the caregiver leaves for a brief time, or they are put down for a nap (Camras et al., 1992;
Stenberg & Campos, 1990; Sullivan & Lewis, 2003).
Why do angry reactions increase with age? As infants become capable of intentional
behavior (see Chapter 6), they want to control their own actions and the effects they produce
and will purposefully try to change an undesirable situation (Alessandri, Sullivan, & Lewis,
1990). They are also more persistent about obtaining desired objects and less easily distracted
from those goals (Mascolo & Fischer, 2007). Furthermore, older infants are better at identifying who caused them pain or removed a toy. Their anger is particularly intense when a caregiver from whom they have come to expect warm behavior causes discomfort. The rise in
anger is also adaptive. New motor capacities enable angry infants to defend themselves or
overcome obstacles (Izard & Ackerman, 2000). Finally, anger motivates caregivers to relieve a
baby’s distress and, in the case of separation, may discourage them from leaving again soon.
Although expressions of sadness also occur in response to pain, removal of an object,
and brief separations, they are less common than anger (Alessandri, Sullivan, & Lewis,
1990). In contrast, sadness occurs often when infants are deprived of a familiar, loving caregiver or when caregiver–infant communication is seriously disrupted (refer again to the
Biology and Environment box on page 402).
Fear Like anger, fear rises during the second half of the first year into the second year
(Braungart-Rieker, Hill-Soderland, & Karrass, 2010). Older infants hesitate before playing with
a new toy, and newly crawling infants soon back away from heights (see Chapter 4). But the
most frequent expression of fear is to unfamiliar adults, a response called stranger anxiety.
Many infants and toddlers are quite wary of strangers, although the reaction does not always
occur. It depends on several factors: temperament (some babies are generally more fearful),
past experiences with strangers, and the current situation. When an unfamiliar adult picks up
the infant in a new setting, stranger anxiety is likely. But if the adult sits still while the baby
moves around and a parent remains nearby, infants often show positive and curious behavior
(Horner, 1980). The stranger’s style of interaction—expressing warmth, holding out an attractive toy, playing a familiar game, and approaching slowly rather than abruptly—reduces the
baby’s fear.
This 8-month-old knows just what
object she wants and who is keeping it from her. Angry reactions
increase as babies become capable
of intentional behavior and better
able to identify obstacles to reaching their goals.
While observing an 8- to
18-month-old with his or her
parent, gently approach the
baby, offering a toy. Does the
baby respond with stranger
anxiety? To better understand
the baby’s behavior, ask the
parent to describe his or her
temperament and past
experiences with strangers.
PART IV Personality and Social Development
Stranger anxiety appears in many
infants after 6 months. But this
baby, safe in his father’s arms, also
expresses curiosity, reaching out
warily toward an unfamiliar adult
who eases his fear by smiling and
approaching slowly.
Cross-cultural research reveals that infant-rearing practices
can modify stranger anxiety. Among the Efe hunters and gatherers
of the Republic of Congo, where the maternal death rate is high,
infant survival is safeguarded by a collective caregiving system
in which, starting at birth, Efe babies are passed from one adult
to another. Consequently, Efe infants show little stranger anxiety
(Tronick, Morelli, & Ivey, 1992). In contrast, among infants in
Israeli kibbutzim (cooperative agricultural settlements), who live
in isolated communities vulnerable to terrorist attacks, wariness of
strangers is widespread. By the end of the first year, when infants
look to others for cues about how to respond emotionally, kibbutz
babies display far greater stranger anxiety than their city-reared
counterparts (Saarni et al., 2006).
The rise in fear after age 6 months keeps newly mobile babies’
enthusiasm for exploration in check. Once wariness develops,
infants use the familiar caregiver as a secure base, or point from
which to explore, venturing into the environment and then returning for emotional support.
As part of this adaptive system, encounters with strangers lead to two conflicting tendencies:
approach (indicated by interest and friendliness) and avoidance (indicated by fear). The
infant’s behavior is a balance between the two.
Eventually, as cognitive development permits toddlers to discriminate more effectively
between threatening and nonthreatening people and situations, stranger anxiety and other
fears of the first two years decline. This change is adaptive because adults other than caregivers will soon be important in children’s development. Fear also wanes as children acquire
a wider array of strategies for coping with it, as you will see when we discuss emotional
Self-Conscious Emotions
Besides basic emotions, humans are capable of a second, higher-order set of feelings, including guilt, shame, embarrassment, envy, and pride. These are called self-conscious emotions
because each involves injury to or enhancement of our sense of self. We feel guilt when we
know that we have harmed someone and we want to correct the wrongdoing. When we are
ashamed or embarrassed, we have negative feelings about our behavior, and we want to
retreat so others will no longer notice our failings. In contrast, pride reflects delight in the
self ’s achievements, and we are inclined to tell others what we have accomplished and to take
on further challenges (Saarni et al., 2006).
Self-conscious emotions appear in the middle of the second year, as 18- to 24-montholds become firmly aware of the self as a separate, unique individual. Toddlers show shame
and embarrassment by lowering their eyes, hanging their heads, and hiding their faces with
their hands. They show guiltlike reactions, too, like the 22-month-old who returned a toy
she had grabbed and patted her upset playmate. Pride also emerges around this time, and
envy by age 3 (Barrett, 2005; Garner, 2003; Lewis et al., 1989).
Besides self-awareness, self-conscious emotions require an additional ingredient: adult
instruction in when to feel proud, ashamed, or guilty. The situations in which adults encourage self-conscious emotions vary from culture to culture. In Western individualistic nations,
most children are taught to feel pride over personal achievement—throwing a ball the farthest, winning a game, and (later on) getting good grades. In collectivist cultures such as
China and Japan, calling attention to purely personal success evokes embarrassment and
self-effacement. And violating cultural standards by failing to show concern for others—a
parent, a teacher, or an employer—sparks intense shame (Akimoto & Sanbonmatsu, 1999;
Lewis, 1992).
As their self-concepts develop, children become increasingly sensitive to praise and
blame or to the possibility of such feedback from parents, teachers, and other adults who
matter to them, often viewing their expectations as obligatory rules (“Dad said you’re ’posed
to take turns”). By age 3, self-conscious emotions are clearly linked to self-evaluation (Lewis,
CHAPTER 10 Emotional Development
1995; Thompson, Meyer, & McGinley, 2006). Preschoolers show much more pride when
they succeed in difficult rather than easy tasks and much more shame when they fail simple
rather than hard tasks (Lewis, Alessandri, & Sullivan, 1992).
Quality of adult feedback influences these early self-evaluative reactions. When parents
repeatedly comment on the worth of the child and her performance (“That’s a bad job!” “I
thought you were a good girl”), children experience self-conscious emotions intensely—more
shame after failure, more pride after success. In contrast, when parents focus on how to
improve performance (“You did it this way; now try doing it that way”), they induce moderate,
more adaptive levels of shame and pride and greater persistence on difficult tasks (Kelley,
Brownell, & Campbell, 2000; Lewis, 1998).
Among Western children, intense shame is associated
with feelings of personal inadequacy (“I’m stupid”; “I’m a
terrible person”) and with maladjustment—withdrawal and
depression as well as intense anger and aggression toward
those who participated in the shame-evoking situation
(Lindsay-Hartz, de Rivera, & Mascolo, 1995; Mills, 2005). In
contrast, guilt—when it occurs in appropriate circumstances
and is neither excessive nor accompanied by shame—is
related to good adjustment. Guilt helps children resist
harmful impulses, and it motivates a misbehaving child to
repair the damage and behave more considerately (Mascolo
& Fischer, 2007; Tangney, Stuewig, & Mashek, 2007). But
overwhelming guilt—involving such high emotional distress
that the child cannot make amends—is linked to depressive
symptoms as early as age 3 (Luby et al., 2009).
The consequences of shame for children’s adjustment,
however, may vary across cultures. In Asian collectivist societies, where people define themselves in relation to their
social group, shame is viewed as an adaptive reminder of the importance of others’ judgments (Bedford, 2004). Chinese parents, for example, believe that it is important for a misbehaving child to feel ashamed. As early as age 2½, they frequently use shame to teach right
from wrong, while mindful that excessive shaming could harm the child’s self-esteem (Fung,
1999). Not surprisingly, Chinese children add the word shame to their vocabularies by age 3,
much earlier than their American counterparts do (Shaver, Wu, & Schwartz, 1992).
As children develop inner standards of excellence and good behavior and a sense of
personal responsibility, the circumstances under which they experience self-conscious emotions change. Unlike preschoolers, school-age children experience pride in a new accomplishment and guilt over a transgression even when no adult is present (Harter & Whitesell,
1989). Also, school-age children no longer report guilt for any mishap, as they did earlier,
but only for intentional wrongdoing, such as ignoring responsibilities, cheating, or lying
(Ferguson, Stegge, & Damhuis, 1991). These changes reflect the older child’s more mature
sense of morality, a topic we will take up in Chapter 12.
Emotional Self-Regulation
Besides expressing a wider range of emotions, children learn to manage their emotional experiences. Emotional self-regulation refers to the strategies we use to adjust our emotional state
to a comfortable level of intensity so we can accomplish our goals. It requires several cognitive
capacities that we discussed in Chapter 7—attention focusing and shifting, the ability to
inhibit thoughts and behavior, and planning, or actively taking steps to relieve a stressful situation (Eisenberg & Spinrad, 2004; Thompson & Goodvin, 2007). When you remind yourself
that an anxiety-provoking event will be over soon, suppress your anger at a friend’s behavior,
or decide not to see a scary horror film, you are engaging in emotional self-regulation.
Emotional self-regulation requires voluntary, effortful management of emotions. This
capacity for effortful control improves gradually, as the result of development of the prefrontal cortex and the assistance of caregivers, who help children manage intense emotion and
A teacher’s praise reinforces this
6-year-old’s pride in completing a
sheet of challenging math problems. But even when no adult
is present, school-age children
experience pride, guilt, and other
self-conscious emotions.
PART IV Personality and Social Development
teach them strategies for doing so (Fox & Calkins, 2003; Rothbart, Posner, & Kieras, 2006).
Individual differences in control of emotion are evident in infancy and, by early childhood,
play such a vital role in children’s adjustment that—as we will see later—effortful control is
considered a major dimension of temperament. Let’s turn now to changes in emotional selfregulation from infancy to adolescence.
Infancy In the early months, infants have only a limited capacity to regulate their emo-
Through adult–child conversations
that prepare children for difficult
experiences, preschoolers learn
techniques for regulating emotions.
With her mother’s reassurance, a
3-year-old is ready for the daily
transition to preschool.
tional states. When their feelings get too intense, they are easily overwhelmed. They depend
on the soothing interventions of caregivers—being lifted to the shoulder, rocked, gently
stroked, and talked to softly—for distraction and reorienting of attention.
More effective functioning of the prefrontal cortex increases the baby’s tolerance for
stimulation. Between 2 and 4 months, caregivers build on this capacity by initiating face-toface play and attention to objects. In these interactions, parents arouse pleasure in the baby
while adjusting the pace of their own behavior so the infant does not become overwhelmed
and distressed. As a result, the baby’s tolerance for stimulation increases further (Kopp &
Neufeld, 2003).
By 4 to 6 months, the ability to shift attention and engage in self-soothing helps infants
control emotion. Babies who more readily turn away from highly stimulating novel events
(a toy fire truck with siren blaring and lights flashing) or engage in self-soothing are less
prone to distress (Crockenberg & Leerkes, 2003a). At the end of the first year, crawling and
walking enable infants to regulate emotion more effectively by approaching or retreating
from various situations. And further gains in attention permit toddlers to sustain interest in
their surroundings and in play activities for a longer time (Rothbart & Bates, 2006).
Infants whose parents “read” and respond contingently and sympathetically to their
emotional cues tend to be less fussy and fearful, to express more pleasurable emotion, to be
more interested in exploration, and to be easier to soothe (Braungart-Rieker, Hill-Soderlund,
& Karrass, 2010; Crockenberg & Leerkes, 2004; Volling et al., 2002). In contrast, parents who
respond impatiently or angrily or who wait to intervene until the infant has become
extremely agitated reinforce the baby’s rapid rise to intense distress. This makes it harder for
parents to soothe the baby in the future—and for the baby to learn to calm herself. When
caregivers fail to regulate stressful experiences for infants who cannot yet regulate them for
themselves, brain structures that buffer stress may fail to develop properly, resulting in an
anxious, emotionally reactive child who has a reduced capacity for managing
emotional problems (Feldman, 2007; Little & Carter, 2005).
In the second year, gains in representation and language lead to new
ways of regulating emotion. A vocabulary for talking about feelings—
“happy,” “love,” “surprised,” “scary,” “yucky,” “mad”—develops rapidly after 18
months, but toddlers are not yet good at using language to manage their
emotions. Temper tantrums tend to occur because toddlers cannot control
the intense anger that often arises when an adult rejects their demands,
particularly when they are fatigued or hungry (Mascolo & Fischer, 2007).
Toddlers whose parents are emotionally sympathetic but set limits (by not
giving in to tantrums), who distract the child by offering acceptable alternatives to the prohibited activity, and who later suggest better ways to handle
adult refusals display more effective anger-regulation strategies and social
skills during the preschool years (Lecuyer & Houck, 2006).
Patient, sensitive parents also encourage toddlers to describe their internal states. Then, when 2-year-olds feel distressed, they can guide caregivers
in helping them. For example, while listening to a story about monsters, one
22-month-old whimpered, “Mommy, scary.” Her mother put down the book
and gave her a consoling hug.
Early Childhood After age 2, children frequently talk about feelings, and
language becomes a major means of actively trying to control them (Cole,
Armstrong, & Pemberton, 2010). By age 3 to 4, preschoolers verbalize a variety of emotional self-regulation strategies. For example, they know they can
CHAPTER 10 Emotional Development
Helping Children Manage Common Fears of Early Childhood
Monsters, ghosts,
and darkness
Reduce exposure to frightening stories in books and on TV until the child is better able to distinguish between
appearance and reality. Make a thorough “search” of the child’s room for monsters, showing him that none
are there. Leave a night-light burning, sit by the child’s bed until he falls asleep, and tuck in a favorite toy for
Preschool or child
If the child resists going to preschool but seems content once there, the fear is probably separation. Provide
a sense of warmth and caring while gently encouraging independence. If the child fears being at preschool,
find out what is frightening—the teacher, the children, or a crowded, noisy environment. Provide extra
support by accompanying the child and gradually lessening the amount of time you are present.
Do not force the child to approach a dog, cat, or other animal that arouses fear. Let the child move at her own
pace. Demonstrate how to hold and pet the animal, showing the child that when treated gently, the animal is
friendly. If the child is larger than the animal, emphasize this: “You’re so big. That kitty is probably afraid of you! ”
Intense fears
If a child’s fear is intense, persists for a long time, interferes with daily activities, and cannot be reduced in any
of the ways just suggested, it has reached the level of a phobia. Sometimes phobias are linked to family problems,
and counseling is needed to reduce them. At other times, phobias diminish without treatment as the child’s
capacity for emotional self-regulation improves.
blunt emotions by restricting sensory input (covering their eyes or ears to block out an
unpleasant sight or sound), talking to themselves (“Mommy said she’ll be back soon”), or
changing their goals (deciding that they don’t want to play anyway after being excluded
from a game). Children’s use of these strategies means fewer emotional outbursts over the
preschool years (Thompson & Goodvin, 2007). As the examples suggest, shifting attention
away from sources of frustration continues to be an effective approach to managing emotion.
Three-year-olds who can distract themselves when frustrated tend to become cooperative
school-age children with few problem behaviors (Gilliom et al., 2002).
By watching adults handle their own feelings and respond to those of others, preschoolers pick up strategies for regulating emotion. Warm, patient parents who use verbal
guidance, including suggesting and explaining strategies and prompting children to generate
their own, strengthen children’s capacity to handle stress (Colman et al., 2006; Morris et al.,
2011). Such children are more likely to use private speech (verbal self-guidance) to regulate
emotion (Atencio & Montero, 2009). In contrast, when parents rarely express positive emotion, dismiss children’s feelings as unimportant, and have difficulty controlling their own
anger, children have continuing problems in managing emotion that seriously interfere with
psychological adjustment (Hill et al., 2006; Katz & Windecker-Nelson, 2004; Thompson &
Meyer, 2007).
As with infants and toddlers, preschoolers who experience negative emotion intensely
have greater difficulty shifting their attention away from disturbing events and inhibiting
their feelings. They are more likely to be anxious and fearful, respond with irritation to others’
distress, react angrily or aggressively when frustrated, and get along poorly with teachers and
peers (Chang et al., 2003; Eisenberg et al., 2005; Raikes et al., 2007). Because these emotionally
reactive children become increasingly difficult to rear, they are often targets of ineffective parenting, which compounds their poor self-regulation.
Adult–child conversations that prepare children for difficult experiences also foster
emotional self-regulation (Thompson & Goodman, 2010). Parents who discuss what to
expect and ways to handle anxiety offer techniques that children can apply. Nevertheless,
preschoolers’ vivid imaginations and incomplete grasp of the distinction between appearance and reality make fears common in early childhood. Consult Applying What We Know
above for ways adults can help young children manage fears.
PART IV Personality and Social Development
Middle Childhood and Adolescence Rapid gains in emotional self-regulation occur
Ask several school-age
children and adolescents how
they would manage their
emotions in the following
situations: (1) a friend is angry
with them, and (2) they
receive a bad grade on an
important test. Do their
responses reflect flexible,
adaptive coping?
after school entry, as emotion regulation strategies become more varied, sophisticated, and
flexible (Raffaelli, Crockett, & Shen, 2005). Between ages 6 and 8—as they become aware of
the difference between feeling an emotion and expressing it—children increasingly reserve
the full performance of emotional expressions for communicating with others. When
alone—although they report experiencing emotions just as intensely—they abbreviate their
emotional expressions, representing them internally, just as they internalize their private
speech (see Chapter 6) (Holodynski, 2004). This emergence of a mental level of emotional
self-communication helps children reflect on their emotions and, therefore, manage them.
At the same time, school-age children face new challenges in regulating negative emotion, prompted by their developing sense of self-worth and expanding knowledge of the
wider world. Common fears of the school years include poor academic performance, rejection by classmates, the possibility of personal harm (being robbed or shot), threats to parental health, and media events (wars and disasters) (Gullone, 2000; Weems & Costa, 2005).
School-age children’s fears are shaped in part by their culture. For example, in China, where
self-restraint and compliance with social standards are highly valued, more children mention
failure and adult criticism as salient fears than in Australia or the United States. Chinese
children, however, are not more fearful overall (Ollendick et al., 1996). The number and
intensity of fears they report resemble those of Western children.
By age 10, most children shift adaptively between two general strategies for managing
emotion. In problem-centered coping, they appraise the situation as changeable, identify
the difficulty, and decide what to do about it. If problem solving does not work, they engage
in emotion-centered coping, which is internal, private, and aimed at controlling distress
when little can be done about an outcome (Kliewer, Fearnow, & Miller, 1996; Lazarus &
Lazarus, 1994). For example, when faced with an anxiety-provoking test or a friend who is
angry at them, older school-age children view problem solving and seeking social support as
the best strategies. But when outcomes are beyond their control—for example, after receiving a bad grade—they opt for distraction or try to redefine the situation in ways that help
them accept it: “Things could be worse. There’ll be another test.” School-age children’s
improved ability to appraise situations and reflect on thoughts and feelings means that, compared with preschoolers, they more often use these internal strategies to manage emotion
(Brenner & Salovey, 1997).
Cognitive development, including gains in planning and inhibition, and a wider range
of social experiences contribute to flexible, effective coping strategies. When emotional selfregulation has developed well, young people acquire a sense of emotional self-efficacy—a
feeling of being in control of their emotional experience (Saarni, 2000; Thompson & Goodwin, 2010). This fosters a favorable self-image and an optimistic outlook, which help them
face further emotional challenges.
Acquiring Emotional Display Rules
In addition to regulating internal emotional states, children must learn to control what they
communicate to others. Young preschoolers have some ability to modify their expressive
behavior. For example, when denied a cookie before dinnertime, one 2-year-old paused,
picked up her blanket, and walked from the hard kitchen floor to the soft family-room
carpet where she could comfortably throw herself down and howl loudly!
At first, children modify emotional expressions to serve personal needs, and they exaggerate their true feelings (as this child did to get attention and a cookie). Soon, they learn to
restrain their expressive behavior and substitute other reactions, such as smiling when feeling anxious or disappointed. All societies have emotional display rules that specify when,
where, and how it is appropriate to express emotions.
As early as the first few months, parents encourage infants to suppress negative emotion
by often imitating their expressions of interest, happiness, and surprise and rarely imitating their expressions of anger and sadness. Baby boys get more of this training than girls, in
part because boys have a harder time regulating negative emotion (Else-Quest et al., 2006;
CHAPTER 10 Emotional Development
Percentage of Children Averaged
Across Six Situations
Malatesta et al., 1986). As a result, the well-known sex difference—females as emo60
tionally expressive and males as emotionally controlled—is promoted at a tender
age. Perhaps because of greater social pressure to suppress emotion, school-age boys
“Just OK”
are less accurate than girls in describing their emotions. In a Canadian study, after
watching an emotionally arousing video, boys were less likely than girls to report
feelings that matched their facial expressions (Strayer & Roberts, 1997). This dis40
connect between boys’ public messages (facial expressions) and verbal acknowledgment of feelings probably contributes to the gender difference in intimacy of close
relationships, which we examine in Chapter 13.
Although caregiver shaping of emotional behavior begins early, children only
gradually gain the ability to conform to display rules. By age 3, capacity for self20
regulation predicts children’s skill at portraying an emotion they do not feel—for
example, reacting cheerfully after receiving an undesirable gift (Kieras et al., 2005).
These emotional “masks” are largely limited to positive feelings of happiness and
surprise. Children of all ages (like adults) find it harder to act angry, sad, or disgusted than pleased (Lewis, Sullivan, & Vasen, 1987). These trends reflect social
pressures: To foster harmonious relationships, most cultures teach children to comHindu
municate positive feelings and inhibit unpleasant emotional displays.
Through interacting with parents, teachers, and peers, children learn how to
express negative emotion in ways likely to evoke a desired response from others. FIGURE 10.1 Hindu and Buddhist
children’s reports of feeling anger and “just
School-age children increasingly prefer verbal strategies to crying, sulking, or OK” in response to emotionally charged
aggression (Shipman et al., 2003). As these findings suggest, children gradually situations. Hindu children reported that they
become consciously aware of display rules. Kindergartners typically say they obey would feel more anger. Buddhist children, whose
the rules to avoid punishment and gain approval from others. By third grade, religion values a calm, peaceful disposition, more
children understand the value of display rules in ensuring social harmony (Jones, often stated that they would feel “just OK.” The
children sometimes selected other emotions, such
Abbey, & Cumberland, 1998). School-age children who justify emotional display as “happy,” “sad,” or “scared,” but these did not
rules by referring to concern for others’ feelings are rated as especially helpful, differ between the two subcultures and are not
cooperative, and socially responsive by teachers and as better liked by peers shown. (Adapted from Cole & Tamang, 1998.)
(Garner, 1996; McDowell & Parke, 2000).
Collectivist cultures place particular emphasis on emotional display rules, although they
vary in how they teach children to inhibit negative displays. In a striking illustration, researchers studied children in two collectivist subcultures in rural Nepal. In response to stories about
emotionally charged situations (such as peer aggression or an unjust parental punishment),
Hindu children more often said they would feel angry but would try to mask their feelings.
Buddhist children, in contrast, interpreted the situation so that they felt “just OK” rather than
angry. “Why be angry?” they explained. “The event already happened” (see Figure 10.1). In
line with this difference, Hindu mothers reported that they often teach their children how to
control their emotional behavior, whereas Buddhist mothers pointed to the value their religion places on a calm, peaceful disposition (Cole & Tamang, 1998; Cole, Tamang, & Shrestha,
2006). Compared to both Nepalese groups, U.S. children preferred conveying their anger
verbally in these situations; for example, to an unjust punishment, they answered, “If I say
I’m angry, he’ll stop hurting me!” (Cole, Bruschi, & Tamang, 2002). Notice how this response
fits with the Western individualistic emphasis on personal rights and self-expression.
■ Why do many infants show stranger anxiety in the
second half of the first year? What factors can increase or
decrease wariness of strangers?
Connect ■ Why do children of depressed parents have difficulty regulating emotion (see page 402)? What implications do
their weak self-regulatory skills have for their response to cognitive and social challenges?
Apply ■ At age 14 months, Reggie built a block tower and
gleefully knocked it down. But at age 2, he called to his mother
and pointed proudly to his tall block tower. What explains this
change in Reggie’s emotional behavior?
■ How do you typically manage negative emotion?
Describe several recent examples. How might your early experiences, gender, and cultural background have influenced your
style of emotional self-regulation?
PART IV Personality and Social Development
Describe the development of
emotional understanding
from infancy through middle
Describe the development of
empathy from infancy into
adolescence, noting
individual differences.
Understanding and Responding
to the Emotions of Others
Children’s emotional expressiveness is intimately tied to their ability to interpret the
emotional cues of others. We have seen that in the first few months, infants match the feeling
tone of the caregiver in face-to-face communication. Some researchers claim that young
babies respond in kind to others’ emotions through a built-in, automatic process of emotional
contagion (Stern, 1985). Others, however, believe that infants acquire these emotional contingencies through operant conditioning—for example, learning that a smile generally triggers
caregiver responsiveness and that distress prompts a comforting response (Saarni et al., 2006).
Around 3 to 4 months, infants can match the emotion in a voice with the appropriate
face of a speaking person, and they become sensitive to the structure and timing of faceto-face interactions. When they gaze, smile, or vocalize, they now expect their social partner to respond in kind, and they reply with positive vocal and emotional reactions (Markova
& Legerstee, 2006; Rochat, Striano, & Blatt, 2002). Within these exchanges, babies become
increasingly aware of the range of emotional expressions (Montague & Walker-Andrews,
2001). Recall from Chapter 4 (see page 146) that out of this early imitative communication,
infants start to view others as “like me”—an awareness believed to lay the foundation for
understanding others’ thoughts and feelings (Meltzoff, 2007).
From 5 months on, infants perceive facial expressions as organized patterns, and they can
match the emotion in a voice with the appropriate face of a speaking person (see Chapter 4).
Responding to emotional expressions as organized wholes suggests that these signals are
becoming meaningful to babies. Between 7 and 12 months, ERPs recorded while infants
attend to facial expressions reveal reorganized brain-wave patterns resembling those of adults,
suggesting enhanced processing of emotional cues (Grossmann, Striano, & Friederici, 2007).
As skill at establishing joint attention improves, infants realize that an emotional expression not only has meaning but is also a meaningful reaction to a specific object or event
(Moses et al., 2001; Tomasello, 1999). Once these understandings are in place, infants
actively seek emotional information from trusted caregivers.
Social Referencing
Observe a toddler and parent
at a playground, park, or
shopping mall, noting
circumstances that trigger
social referencing. How does
the parent convey emotional
information? How does the
toddler respond?
Beginning at 8 to 10 months, when infants start to evaluate unfamiliar people, objects, and
events in terms of their own safety and security, they often engage in social referencing—
relying on another person’s emotional reaction to appraise an uncertain situation (Mumme
et al., 2007). Many studies show that a caregiver’s emotional expression (happy, angry, or fearful) influences whether a 1-year-old will be wary of strangers, play with an unfamiliar toy,
or cross the deep side of the visual cliff (de Rosnay et al., 2006; Stenberg, 2003; Striano &
Rochat, 2000). The caregiver’s voice—either alone or combined with a facial expression—is
more effective than a facial expression alone (Kim, Walden, & Knieps, 2010; Vaish & Striano,
2004). The voice conveys both emotional and verbal information, and the baby need not
turn toward the adult but, instead, can focus on evaluating the novel event.
As recall memory and language skills improve, and as parents’ warnings to their newly
walking youngsters become more frequent and intense, babies retain these emotional messages over longer time intervals. At 11 months, they respond appropriately after a delay of a
few minutes, at 14 months after a delay of an hour or more (Hertenstein & Campos, 2004).
By the middle of the second year, social referencing expands to include indirect emotional
signals. After observing an adult react angrily to a second adult’s play with a toy, 18-montholds increased their monitoring of the angry adult’s facial expression and reduced their
touching of the object (Repacholi & Meltzoff, 2007).
As toddlers begin to appreciate that others’ emotional reactions may differ from their own,
social referencing allows them to compare their own and others’ assessments of events. In one
study, an adult showed 14- and 18-month-olds broccoli and crackers. In one condition, she
acted delighted with the taste of broccoli but disgusted with the taste of crackers. In the other
condition, she showed the reverse preference. When asked to
share the food, 14-month-olds offered only the type of food
they themselves preferred—usually crackers. In contrast, 18month-olds gave the adult whichever food she appeared to like,
regardless of their own preferences (Repacholi & Gopnik, 1997).
In sum, in social referencing, toddlers move beyond
simply reacting to others’ emotional messages. They use those
signals to evaluate the safety and security of their surroundings, to guide their own actions, and to gather information
about others’ intentions and preferences. These experiences,
along with cognitive and language development, probably
help toddlers refine the meanings of emotions of the same
valence—for example, happiness versus surprise, anger versus fear—during the second year (Gendler, Witherington, &
Edwards, 2008; Saarni et al., 2006).
CHAPTER 10 Emotional Development
Emotional Understanding in Childhood
During the preschool years, children’s emotional understanding expands rapidly, as their
everyday talk about emotions reveals:
Two-year-old: [After father shouted at child, she became angry, shouting back] I’m mad at
you, Daddy. I’m going away. Goodbye.
Two-year-old: [Commenting on another child who refused to take a nap and cried] Mom,
Annie cry. Annie sad.
Six-year-old: [In response to mother’s comment, “It’s hard to hear the baby crying”] Well, it’s
not as hard for me as it is for you. [When mother asked why] Well, you like Johnny
better than I do! I like him a little, and you like him a lot, so I think it’s harder for you
to hear him cry.
Six-year-old: [Comforting a small boy in church whose mother had gone up to communion]
She’ll be right back. Don’t be afraid. I’m here. (Bretherton et al., 1986, pp. 536, 540, 541)
Cognitive Development and Emotional Understanding As these examples show,
early in the preschool years, children refer to causes, consequences, and behavioral signs of
emotion, and over time their understanding becomes more accurate and complex (Stein
& Levine, 1999). By age 4 to 5, they correctly judge the causes of many basic emotions
(“He’s happy because he’s swinging very high”; “He’s sad because he misses his mother”).
Preschoolers’ explanations tend to emphasize external factors over internal states, a balance
that changes with age (Levine, 1995). In Chapter 11, we will see that after age 4, children
appreciate that both desires and beliefs motivate behavior. Once these understandings are
secure, children’s grasp of how internal factors can trigger emotion expands.
Preschoolers can also predict what a playmate expressing a certain emotion might do
next. Four-year-olds know that an angry child might hit someone and that a happy child is
more likely to share (Russell, 1990). And they realize that thinking and feeling are interconnected—that a person reminded of a previous sad experience is likely to feel sad (Lagattuta,
Wellman, & Flavell, 1997). Furthermore, they come up with effective ways to relieve others’
negative feelings, such as hugging to reduce sadness (Fabes et al., 1988).
In middle childhood, ability to consider conflicting cues when explaining others’ emotions
improves. When asked what might be happening in a picture showing a happy-faced child
with a broken bicycle, 4- and 5-year-olds tended to rely only on the emotional expression:
“He’s happy because he likes to ride his bike.” By age 8 to 9, children more often reconciled
the two cues: “He’s happy because his father promised to help fix his broken bike” (Gnepp,
1983; Hoffner & Badzinski, 1989). Similarly, older children are more aware of circumstances
likely to spark mixed emotions, each of which may be positive or negative and may differ in
intensity (Larsen, To, & Fireman, 2007; Pons et al., 2003). Preschoolers, by contrast, staunchly
deny that two emotions can occur at once, much as they do not integrate two variables (height
and width) in a Piagetian conservation-of-liquid task (see Chapter 6).
A toddler engages in social referencing, concluding from her
father’s calm, confident manner
that it is safe to approach these
unfamiliar animals.
PART IV Personality and Social Development
Appreciating mixed emotions helps school-age children realize that
people’s expressions may not reflect their true feelings (Misailidi, 2006;
Saarni, 1999). It also fosters awareness of self-conscious emotions, which are
more complex in expression than basic emotions. For example, between ages
6 and 7, children improve sharply in ability to distinguish pride from happiness and surprise (Tracy, Robins, & Lagattuta, 2005). And 8- and 9-year-olds
understand that pride combines two sources of happiness—joy in accomplishment and joy that a significant person recognized that accomplishment
(Harter, 1999). As with the development of metacognition (thinking about
thought), discussed in Chapter 7, striking gains in thinking about emotion
occur in middle childhood.
Social Experience and Emotional Understanding The more
The older of these siblings clearly
realizes—even if his younger
brother doesn’t—that it is possible
to experience two emotions at
once: happiness at getting a Christmas gift but disappointment with
the gift itself.
mothers label emotions, explain them, and express warmth and enthusiasm
when conversing with preschoolers, the more “emotion words” children use
and the better developed their emotional understanding (Fivush & Haden,
2005; Laible & Song, 2006). Maternal prompting of emotional thoughts
(“What makes him afraid?”) is a good predictor of 2-year-olds’ emotion language. For older preschoolers, explanations (“He’s sad because his dog ran
away”) are more important (Cervantes & Callanan, 1998). Does this remind
you of the concept of scaffolding, discussed in Chapter 6—that to be effective,
adult teaching must adjust to children’s increasing competence?
Preschoolers whose parents frequently acknowledge their emotional reactions and explicitly teach them about diverse emotions are better able to judge
others’ emotions when tested at later ages (Denham & Kochanoff, 2002). Discussions in
which family members disagree are particularly helpful. In one study, when mothers
explained feelings and negotiated and compromised during conflicts with their 2½-year-olds,
their children, at age 3, were advanced in understanding emotion and used similar strategies
to resolve disagreements (Laible & Thompson, 2002). Such dialogues seem to help children
reflect on the causes and consequences of emotion while modeling mature communication
skills. Furthermore, 3- to 5-year-olds who have a warm, relaxed relationship with their mothers
(a secure attachment bond) better understand emotion. Attachment security is related to
warmer and more elaborative parent–child narratives, including discussions of feelings that
highlight the emotional significance of events (Laible, 2004; Laible & Song, 2006; Raikes &
Thompson, 2006).
As preschoolers learn more about emotion from interacting with adults, they engage in
more emotion talk with siblings and friends, especially during make-believe play (Hughes &
Dunn, 1998). Make-believe, in turn, contributes to emotional understanding, especially
when children play with siblings (Youngblade & Dunn, 1995). The intense nature of the
sibling relationship, combined with frequent acting out of feelings, makes pretending an
excellent context for early learning about emotions. And when parents intervene in sibling
disputes by reasoning and negotiating, preschoolers gain in sensitivity to their siblings’ feelings (Perlman & Ross, 1997). They more often refer to their siblings’ emotional perspective
(“You get mad when I don’t share”) and engage in less fighting.
Knowledge about emotions helps children greatly in their efforts to get along with others.
As early as 3 to 5 years of age, it is related to friendly, considerate behavior; willingness to
make amends after harming another; and constructive responses to disputes with agemates
(Dunn, Brown, & Maguire, 1995; Garner & Estep, 2001; Hughes & Ensor, 2010). Also, the
more preschoolers refer to feelings when interacting with playmates, the better liked they are
by their peers (Fabes et al., 2001). Children seem to recognize that acknowledging others’
emotions and explaining their own enhance the quality of relationships.
Empathy and Sympathy
In empathy, understanding and expression of emotions are interwoven, since both awareness
of the emotions of another and the vicarious experience of those emotions are required for
an empathic response. Current theorists agree that empathy involves a complex interaction
CHAPTER 10 Emotional Development
of cognition and affect: the ability to detect different emotions, to take another’s emotional
perspective, and to feel with that person, or respond emotionally in a similar way. Beginning in the preschool years, empathy is an important motivator of prosocial, or altruistic,
behavior—actions that benefit another person without any expected reward for the self
(Eisenberg, Fabes, & Spinrad, 2006; Spinrad & Eisenberg, 2009). Yet in some children, empathizing with an upset adult or peer does not yield acts of kindness and helpfulness but
instead escalates into personal distress. In trying to reduce these feelings, the child focuses on
his own anxiety rather than on the person in need. As a result, empathy does not lead to
sympathy—feelings of concern or sorrow for another’s plight.
Development of Empathy Empathy has roots early in development. Newborn babies
tend to cry in response to the cry of another baby (see pages 135–136 in Chapter 4). And
earlier we noted young infants’ matching of others’ emotional expressions. In sensitive, faceto-face communication, infants “connect” emotionally with their caregivers—experiences
believed to be the foundation for empathy and concern for others (Zahn-Waxler, 1991).
Like self-conscious emotions, true empathy requires children to understand that the self
is distinct from other people. As self-awareness strengthens at the end of the second year,
toddlers begin to empathize. With age, they not only sense another’s unhappiness but become
better at inferring from the situation what might help relieve it (Svetlova, Nichols, & Brownell,
2010). For example, 2- to 2½-year-olds will readily hand a blanket to an adult who is rubbing
her arms, shivering, and saying, “Brrrr.” And they are likely to respond to their mother’s
simulated sadness by offering a hug or comforting words, or trying to distract her with a toy (Zahn-Waxler & Radke-Yarrow, 1990). Children of this
age even react with concern and consoling behavior to an adult who experiences harm (someone destroys her treasured possession) but who shows
no overt emotion (Vaish, Carpenter, & Tomasello, 2009). Older toddlers
seem to be able to engage in basic affective perspective-taking—inferring
how another feels by imagining themselves in that person’s place.
As language develops, children rely more on words to console others,
indicating a more reflective level of empathy (Bretherton et al., 1986).
When a 4-year-old received a Christmas gift that she hadn’t included on
her list for Santa, she assumed it belonged to another little girl and pleaded
with her parents, “We’ve got to give it back—Santa’s made a big mistake.
I think the girl’s crying ’cause she didn’t get her present!”
Empathy increases over the elementary school years as children
understand a wider range of emotions and take multiple cues into account
in assessing others’ feelings (Ricard & Kamberk-Kilicci, 1995). During late
childhood and adolescence, advances in perspective taking permit an
empathic response not just to people’s immediate distress but also to their
general life condition (Hoffman, 2000). The ability to empathize with the poor, oppressed,
and sick requires an advanced form of perspective taking in which the young person understands that people lead continuous emotional lives beyond the current situation.
Individual Differences Temperament plays a role in whether empathy occurs and
whether it prompts sympathetic, prosocial behavior or a personally distressed, self-focused
response. Twin studies reveal that empathy is moderately heritable (Knafo et al., 2009). Children who are sociable, assertive, and good at regulating emotion are more likely than poor
emotion regulators to empathize with others’ distress, display sympathetic concern, and
engage in prosocial behavior, helping, sharing, and comforting others in distress (Bengtson,
2005; Eisenberg et al., 1998; Valiente et al., 2004). Such children are also more likely to empathize with others’ positive emotions of joy and happiness (Sallquist et al., 2009).
In contrast, aggressive children’s high hostility, weakened capacity to take another’s perspective, and impulsive acting out of negative feelings blunt their capacity for empathy and
sympathy. Many show a decline—rather than the typical rise—in concern for others during
middle childhood (Hastings et al., 2000; Strayer & Roberts, 2004b). And shy children may
not display sympathetic concern because they are easily overwhelmed by anxiety when
others are distressed (Eisenberg et al., 1996).
A preschooler comforts a sad classmate. As children’s language and
perspective-taking skills expand,
empathy increases and, in children
who are good at regulating emotion, leads to sympathetic concern
and prosocial behavior.
PART IV Personality and Social Development
Individual differences in empathy and sympathy are evident in children’s facial and neurobiological responses. In a series of studies, children watched videotapes of people in need,
such as two children lying on the ground crying. Children who reacted with facial or physiological markers of concern—an interested, caring expression or a decrease in heart rate,
suggesting orienting and attention—usually behaved prosocially when offered a chance to
help. Those who showed facial and physiological evidence of distress—frowning, lip biting,
and a rise in heart rate—were less prosocial (Fabes et al., 1994; Miller et al., 1996). Similarly,
empathy is related to EEG brain-wave activity—a mild increase in the left hemisphere (which
houses positive emotion) among children showing facial signs of empathy. In contrast, children who do not show these empathic signs often display a sharp EEG increase in the right
hemisphere (which houses negative emotion)—an indication that they are overwhelmed by
negative emotion (Jones, Field, & Davalos, 2000; Pickens, Field, & Nawrocki, 2001).
Parenting profoundly influences empathy and sympathy. When parents are warm,
encourage emotional expressiveness, and show sensitive, empathic concern for their youngsters’ feelings, their children are likely to react in a concerned way to the distress of others—
relationships that persist into adolescence and early adulthood (Koestner, Franz, &
Weinberger, 1990; Michalik et al., 2007; Strayer & Roberts, 2004a). Besides modeling sympathy, parents can help children learn to regulate angry feelings, which disrupt empathy and
sympathy. They can also teach children the importance of kindness and can intervene when
they display inappropriate emotion—strategies that predict high levels of sympathetic
responding (Eisenberg, 2003). And parents can provide opportunities for children to show
sympathetic concern through charitable giving and community service activities.
In contrast, angry, punitive parenting disrupts empathy and sympathy at an early age—
particularly among children who are poor emotion regulators and, therefore, respond to parental hostility with especially high levels of personal distress (Valiente et al., 2004). In one study,
physically abused toddlers at a child-care center rarely expressed concern at a peer’s unhappiness but, rather, reacted with fear, anger, and physical attacks (Klimes-Dougan & Kistner,
1990). The children’s reactions resembled their parents’ insensitive responses to others’ suffering.
These findings, like others discussed so far, reveal wide variations in children’s emotional
dispositions. As we turn now to the topic of temperament, we will encounter additional evidence for the joint contributions of heredity and environment to these differences. But first,
consult the Milestones table on the following page for an overview of the emotional attainments just considered.
■ What do preschoolers understand about emotion,
and how do cognition and social experience contribute to their
Connect ■ Cite ways that parenting contributes to emotional
understanding, self-conscious emotions, empathy, and sympathy.
Do you see any patterns? Explain.
Connect ■ Why is good emotional self-regulation vital for
empathy to result in sympathy and prosocial behavior?
Apply ■ When 15-month-old Ellen fell down while running,
she looked at her mother, who smiled and exclaimed, “Oh,
wasn’t that a funny tumble!” How is Ellen likely to respond
emotionally, and why?
What is temperament, and
how is it measured?
Discuss the roles of heredity
and environment in the
stability of temperament, the
relationship of temperament
to cognitive and social
functioning, and the
goodness-of-fit model.
Temperament and Development
When we describe one person as cheerful and upbeat, another as active and energetic,
and still others as calm, cautious, persistent, or prone to angry outbursts, we are referring
to temperament—early-appearing, stable individual differences in reactivity and selfregulation. Reactivity refers to variations in quickness and intensity of emotional arousal,
attention, and motor action. Self-regulation, as we have seen, refers to strategies that modify
CHAPTER 10 Emotional Development
Emotional Development
Birth–6 months
Social smile emerges
Laughter appears
Expressions of happiness increase when interacting
with familiar people
Emotional expressions gradually become organized
signals that are meaningfully related to environmental
Anger and fear increase in frequency and intensity
Uses caregiver as a secure base
7–12 months
1–2 years
3–6 years
7–11 years
Detects emotions by matching
the caregiver’s feeling tone in
face-to-face communication
Detects the meaning of others’
emotional signals
Regulates emotion by approaching and retreating
from stimulation
Engages in social referencing
Self-conscious emotions
emerge but depend
on monitoring and
encouragement of adults
Begins to appreciate that others’ emotional reactions
may differ from one’s own
Acquires a vocabulary of emotional terms
Displays empathy
Understanding of
causes, consequences,
and behavioral signs of
emotion improves in
accuracy and complexity
Begins to use language to
assist with emotional
Self-conscious emotions are
clearly linked to self-evaluation
As representation and language
improve, uses active strategies
for regulating emotion
Begins to conform to emotional display rules; can
pose a positive emotion he or she does not feel
As language develops,
empathy becomes more
Self-conscious emotions are integrated with inner
standards of excellence and good behavior
Can reconcile conflicting cues when explaining others’
Uses internal strategies for engaging in emotional
self-regulation; shifts adaptively between problemcentered and emotion-centered coping
Is aware that people can have mixed feelings and that
their expressions may not reflect their true feelings
Conformity to and conscious awareness of emotional
display rules improve
Empathy increases as emotional understanding and
perspective taking improve
Note: These milestones represent overall age trends. Individual differences exist in the precise age at which each milestone is attained.
Photos: (left) © Robert Dant/Alamy; (top right) © Laura Dwight Photography; (bottom right) © Ellen B. Senisi Photography
that reactivity (Rothbart & Bates, 2006). The psychological traits that make up temperament
are believed to form the cornerstone of the adult personality.
In 1956, Alexander Thomas and Stella Chess initiated the New York Longitudinal Study,
a groundbreaking investigation of the development of temperament that followed 141 children from early infancy well into adulthood. Results showed that temperament can increase
a child’s chances of experiencing psychological problems or, alternatively, protect a child
from the negative effects of a stressful home life. At the same time, Thomas and Chess (1977)
discovered that parenting practices can modify children’s temperaments considerably.
PART IV Personality and Social Development
These findings stimulated a growing body of research on temperament, including its
stability, biological roots, and interaction with child-rearing experiences. Let’s begin to
explore these issues by looking at the structure, or makeup, of temperament and how it is
The Structure of Temperament
Thomas and Chess’s model of temperament, consisting of nine dimensions listed in Table
10.1, inspired all others that followed. When detailed descriptions of infants’ and children’s
behavior obtained from parent interviews were rated on these dimensions, certain characteristics clustered together, yielding three types of children:
The easy child (40 percent of the sample) quickly establishes regular routines in infancy,
is generally cheerful, and adapts easily to new experiences.
The difficult child (10 percent of the sample) has irregular daily routines, is slow to
accept new experiences, and tends to react negatively and intensely.
The slow-to-warm-up child (15 percent of the sample) is inactive, shows mild, low-key
reactions to environmental stimuli, is negative in mood, and adjusts slowly to new
Note that 35 percent of the children did not fit any of these categories. Instead, they showed
unique blends of temperamental characteristics.
The difficult pattern has sparked the most interest because it places children at high
risk for adjustment problems—both anxious withdrawal and aggressive behavior in early
and middle childhood (Bates, Wachs, & Emde, 1994; Ramos et al., 2005; Thomas, Chess, &
Birch, 1968). Compared with difficult children, slow-to-warm-up children present fewer
problems in the early years. However, they tend to show excessive fearfulness and slow, constricted behavior in the late preschool and school years, when they are expected to respond
TABLE 10.1
Two Models of Temperament
Activity level
Ratio of active periods to inactive ones
Regularity of body functions, such as sleep,
wakefulness, hunger, and excretion
Activity level
Level of gross-motor activity
Degree to which stimulation from the
environment alters behavior—for example,
whether crying stops when a toy is offered
Attention span/
Duration of orienting or interest
Fearful distress
Wariness and distress in response to intense or
novel stimuli, including time to adjust to new
Irritable distress
Extent of fussing, crying, and distress when
desires are frustrated
Positive affect
Frequency of expression of happiness and pleasure
Response to a new object, food, or person
Ease with which child adapts to changes in the
environment, such as sleeping or eating in a
new place
Attention span
and persistence
Amount of time devoted to an activity, such as
watching a mobile or playing with a toy
Intensity of
Energy level of response, such as laughing,
crying, talking, or gross-motor activity
Threshold of
Intensity of stimulation required to evoke a
Quality of mood
Amount of friendly, joyful behavior as opposed
to unpleasant, unfriendly behavior
Effortful control
Capacity to voluntarily suppress a dominant,
reactive response in order to plan and execute a
more adaptive response
CHAPTER 10 Emotional Development
actively and quickly in classrooms and peer groups (Chess & Thomas, 1984; Schmitz et al.,
Today, the most influential model of temperament is Mary Rothbart’s (refer again to
Table 10.1). It combines related traits proposed by Thomas and Chess and other researchers,
yielding a concise list of just six dimensions. For example, “distractibility” and “attention
span and persistence” are considered opposite ends of the same dimension, which is labeled
“attention span/persistence.” A unique feature of Rothbart’s model is inclusion of both “fearful distress” and “irritable distress,” which distinguish between reactivity triggered by fear
and reactivity due to frustration. And the model deletes overly broad dimensions, such as
“rhythmicity,” “intensity of reaction,” and “threshold of responsiveness” (Rothbart, Ahadi, &
Evans, 2000; Rothbart & Mauro, 1990). A child who is rhythmic in sleeping is not necessarily rhythmic in eating or bowel habits. And a child who smiles and laughs intensely is not
necessarily intense in fear, irritability, or motor activity.
Rothbart’s dimensions are supported by factor analyses of many measures of children’s
temperament (see page 321 in Chapter 8 to review the concept of factor analysis). Notice
how her dimensions represent the three underlying components included in the definition
of temperament: (1) emotion (“fearful distress,” “irritable distress,” “positive affect,” and
“soothability”), (2) attention (“attention span/persistence”), and (3) action (“activity level”).
According to Rothbart, individuals differ not only in their reactivity on each dimension
but also in the self-regulatory dimension of temperament, effortful control—the capacity to
voluntarily suppress a dominant response in order to plan and execute a more adaptive
response (Rothbart, 2003; Rothbart & Bates, 2006). Variations in effortful control are evident
in how effectively a child can focus and shift attention, inhibit impulses, and manage
negative emotion.
TAKE A MOMENT... Turn back to page 287 in Chapter 7 to review the concept of inhibition, and note its strong resemblance to effortful control. As we will see later, researchers
assess these capacities in similar ways. Their converging concepts, measures, and findings
reveal that the same mental activities lead to effective regulation in both the cognitive and
emotional/social domains.
Measuring Temperament
Temperament is often assessed through interviews or questionnaires given to parents.
Behavior ratings by pediatricians, teachers, and others familiar with the child and laboratory observations by researchers have also been used. Parental reports are convenient
and take advantage of parents’ depth of knowledge of the child across many situations
(Gartstein & Rothbart, 2003). Although information from parents has been criticized as
being biased, parental reports are moderately related to researchers’ observations of children’s behavior (Majdandžić & van den Boom, 2007; Mangelsdorf, Schoppe, & Buur, 2000).
And parent perceptions are vital for understanding how parents view and respond to their
Observations by researchers in the home or laboratory avoid the subjectivity of parental
reports but can lead to other inaccuracies. In homes, observers find it hard to capture all
relevant information, especially events that are rare but important, such as infants’ response
to frustration. And in the unfamiliar lab setting, fearful children who calmly avoid certain
experiences at home may become too upset to complete the session if the lab does not permit avoidance (Wachs & Bates, 2001). Still, researchers can better control children’s experiences in the lab. And they can conveniently combine observations of behavior with
neurobiological measures to gain insight into the biological bases of temperament.
Most neurobiological research has focused on children who fall at opposite extremes
of the positive-affect and fearful-distress dimensions of temperament: inhibited, or shy,
children, who react negatively to and withdraw from novel stimuli; and uninhibited, or
sociable, children, who display positive emotion to and approach novel stimuli. As the
Biology and Environment box on page 420 reveals, biologically based reactivity—evident
in heart rate, hormone levels, and EEG brain waves in the frontal region of the cerebral
cortex—differentiates children with inhibited and uninhibited temperaments.
PART IV Personality and Social Development
wo 4-month-old babies, Larry and Mitch,
visited the laboratory of Jerome Kagan,
who observed their reactions to a variety
of unfamiliar experiences. When exposed to new
sights and sounds, such as a moving mobile
decorated with colorful toys, Larry tensed his
muscles, moved his arms and legs with agitation,
and began to cry. In contrast, Mitch remained
relaxed and quiet, smiling and cooing at the
excitement around him.
As toddlers, Larry and Mitch returned to
the laboratory, where they experienced several
procedures designed to induce uncertainty.
Electrodes were placed on their bodies and
blood pressure cuffs on their arms to measure
heart rate; toy robots, animals, and puppets
moved before their eyes; and unfamiliar people
entered and behaved in unexpected ways or
wore novel costumes. While Larry whimpered
and quickly withdrew, Mitch watched with
interest, laughed at the strange sights, and
approached the toys and strangers.
On a third visit, at age 4½, Larry barely
talked or smiled during an interview with an
unfamiliar adult. In contrast, Mitch asked
questions and communicated his pleasure at
each new activity. In a playroom with two unfamiliar peers, Larry pulled back and watched,
while Mitch made friends quickly.
In longitudinal research on several hundred
Caucasian infants followed into adolescence,
Kagan found that about 20 percent of 4-monthold babies were, like Larry, easily upset by
novelty; 40 percent, like Mitch, were comfortable, even delighted, with new experiences.
About 20 to 30 percent of these extreme groups
retained their temperamental styles as they
grew older (Kagan, 2003; Kagan & Saudino,
2001; Kagan et al., 2007). But most children’s
dispositions became less extreme over time.
Genetic makeup and child-rearing experiences
jointly influenced stability and change in
& Fox, 2006). In support of this theory, while
viewing photos of unfamiliar faces, adults who
had been classified as inhibited in the second
year of life showed greater fMRI activity in the
amygdala than adults who had been uninhibited as toddlers (Schwartz et al., 2003). And
additional neurobiological responses known
to be mediated by the amygdala distinguish
these two emotional styles:
Neurobiological Correlates of
Shyness and Sociability
Child-Rearing Practices
Individual differences in arousal of the amygdala, an inner brain structure that controls
avoidance reactions, contribute to these
contrasting temperaments. In shy, inhibited
children, novel stimuli easily excite the amygdala and its connections to the cerebral cortex
and sympathetic nervous system, which prepares
the body to act in the face of threat. In sociable,
uninhibited children, the same level of stimulation evokes minimal neural excitation (Kagan
Development of Shyness and Sociability
• Heart rate. From the first few weeks of life,
the heart rates of shy children are consistently higher than those of sociable children,
and they speed up further in response to
unfamiliar events (Schmidt et al., 2007;
Snidman et al., 1995).
Cortisol. Saliva concentrations of the stress
hormone cortisol tend to be higher, and to
rise more in response to a stressful event, in
shy than in sociable children (Schmidt et al.,
1997, 1999; Zimmermann & Stansbury,
Pupil dilation, blood pressure, and skin
surface temperature. Compared with sociable
children, shy children tend to show greater
pupil dilation, rise in blood pressure, and
cooling of the fingertips when faced with
novelty (Kagan et al., 1999, 2007).
Another physiological correlate of approach–
withdrawal to people and objects is the pattern
of EEG brain waves in the frontal lobes of the
cerebral cortex. Shy infants and preschoolers
show greater EEG activity in the right frontal
lobe, which is associated with negative emotional reactivity; sociable children show the
opposite pattern (Fox et al., 2008; Kagan et al.,
2007). Neural activity in the amygdala, which is
transmitted to the frontal lobes, probably contributes to these differences. Inhibited children
also show greater generalized activation of the
cerebral cortex, an indicator of high emotional
arousal and monitoring of new situations for
potential threats (Henderson et al., 2004).
According to Kagan, extremely shy or sociable
children inherit a physiology that biases them
toward a particular temperamental style. Yet
heritability research indicates that genes contribute only modestly to shyness and sociability
(Kagan & Fox, 2006). Experience has a powerful
Child-rearing practices affect the chances
that an emotionally reactive baby will become
a fearful child. Warm, supportive parenting
reduces shy infants’ and preschoolers’ intense
A strong physiological response to novel stimuli
prompts this child to cling to his father. With
patient, insistent encouragement, parents can
help shy children overcome the urge to retreat
from unfamiliar events.
physiological reaction to novelty, whereas cold,
intrusive parenting heightens anxiety (Coplan,
Arbeau, & Armer, 2008; Hane et al., 2008). And
if parents overprotect infants and young children who dislike novelty, they make it harder for
the child to overcome an urge to retreat. Parents
who make appropriate demands for their child
to approach new experiences help shy youngsters develop strategies for regulating fear
(Rubin & Burgess, 2002).
When inhibition persists, it leads to excessive
cautiousness, low self-esteem, and loneliness
(Fordham & Stevenson-Hinde, 1999; Rubin,
Stewart, & Coplan, 1995). In adolescence, persistent shyness increases the risk of severe anxiety,
especially social phobia—intense fear of being
humiliated in social situations (Kagan & Fox,
2006). For inhibited children to acquire effective
social skills, parenting must be tailored to their
temperaments—a theme we will encounter
again in this and later chapters.
CHAPTER 10 Emotional Development
Stability of Temperament
Young children who score low or high on attention span, irritability, sociability, shyness, or
effortful control tend to respond similarly when assessed again several months to a few years
later and, occasionally, even into the adult years (Caspi et al., 2003; Kochanska & Knack,
2003; Majdandžić & van den Boom, 2007; Rothbart, Ahadi, & Evans, 2000; van den Akker
et al., 2010). However, the overall stability of temperament is low in infancy and toddlerhood
and only moderate from the preschool years on (Putnam, Samson, & Rothbart, 2000). Some
children remain the same, but many others change.
Why isn’t temperament more stable? A major reason is that temperament itself develops with age. To illustrate, let’s look at irritability and activity level. Recall from Chapter 4
that most babies fuss and cry in the early months. As infants better regulate their attention and emotions, many who initially seemed irritable become calm and content. In the
case of activity level, the meaning of the behavior changes. At first, an active, wriggling
infant tends to be highly aroused and uncomfortable, whereas an inactive baby is often
alert and attentive. Once infants move on their own, the reverse is so! An active crawler is
usually alert and interested in exploration, whereas a very inactive baby may be fearful and
These discrepancies help us understand why long-term prediction from early temperament is best achieved after age 3, when children’s styles of responding are better established
(Roberts & DelVecchio, 2000). In line with this idea, between ages 2½ and 3, children
improve substantially and also perform more consistently across a wide variety of tasks
requiring effortful control, such as waiting for a reward, lowering their voice to a whisper,
succeeding at games like “Simon Says,” and selectively attending to one stimulus while ignoring competing stimuli (Kochanska, Murray, & Harlan, 2000; Li-Grining, 2007). Researchers
believe that around this time, areas in the prefrontal cortex involved in suppressing impulses
develop rapidly (Gerardi-Caulton, 2000; Rothbart & Bates, 2006).
Nevertheless, the ease with which children manage their reactivity in early childhood
depends on the type and strength of the reactive emotion involved. Preschoolers who were
highly fearful as 2-year-olds score slightly better than their agemates in effortful control as
4-year-olds. In contrast, angry, irritable 2-year-olds tend to be less effective at effortful control
at later ages (Bridgett et al., 2009; Kochanska & Knaack, 2003; Kochanska, Murray, & Harlan,
In sum, many factors affect the extent to which a child’s temperament remains stable,
including development of the biological systems on which temperament is based, the
child’s capacity for effortful control, and the success of her efforts, which depend on the
quality and intensity of her emotional reactivity. When we consider the evidence as a whole,
the low to moderate stability of temperament makes sense. It also confirms that experience can modify biologically based temperamental traits considerably, although children
rarely change from one extreme to another—that is, a shy preschooler practically never
becomes highly sociable, and irritable children seldom become easy-going. With these
ideas in mind, let’s turn to genetic and environmental contributions to temperament and
Genetic and Environmental Influences
The word temperament implies a genetic foundation for individual differences in personality.
Research indicates that identical twins are more similar than fraternal twins across a wide
range of temperamental traits (activity level, attention span, shyness/sociability, irritability,
and effortful control) and personality measures (introversion/extroversion, anxiety, agreeableness, curiosity and imaginativeness, and impulsivity) (Bouchard, 2004; Bouchard &
Loehlin, 2001; Caspi & Shiner, 2006; Roisman & Fraley, 2006; Saudino & Cherny, 2001). In
Chapter 3, we noted that heritability estimates derived from twin studies suggest a moderate
role for genetic factors in temperament and personality: About half of individual differences
have been attributed to differences in genetic makeup.
PART IV Personality and Social Development
Nevertheless, genetic influences vary with the temperamental trait and the age of the
individual being studied. For example, heritability estimates are higher for expressions of
negative emotion than for positive emotion. And the role of heredity is considerably less in
infancy than in childhood and later years, when temperament becomes more stable (Wachs
& Bates, 2001).
Although genetic influences on temperament are clear, environment is also powerful. For
example, persistent nutritional and emotional deprivation profoundly alters temperament,
resulting in maladaptive emotional reactivity. Recall from Chapter 5 that even after dietary
improvement, children exposed to severe malnutrition in infancy remain more distractible
and fearful than their agemates. Also, higher levels of home noise and crowding are linked to
withdrawal and irritability in the second year (Matheny & Phillips, 2001; Wachs, 2006). And
earlier in this chapter, we noted that children who spent their infancy in deprived orphanages
are easily overwhelmed by stressful events. Their poor regulation of emotion results in inattention and weak impulse control, including frequent expressions of anger (see page 197).
Other research shows that child rearing has much to do with whether infants and young
children maintain their temperamental traits. In fact, heredity and environment often jointly
contribute to temperament, since a child’s approach to the world affects the experiences to
which she is exposed. To illustrate how this works, let’s look closely at ethnic differences in
Cultural Variations Compared with North Ameri-
can Caucasian infants, Chinese and Japanese babies
tend to be less active, irritable, and vocal; more easily
soothed when upset; and better at quieting themselves
(Kagan et al., 1994; Lewis, Ramsay, & Kawakami,
1993). Chinese and Japanese babies are also more fearful and inhibited, remaining closer to their mothers
in an unfamiliar playroom and displaying more anxiety when interacting with a stranger (Chen, Wang,
& DeSouza, 2006). And they are more emotionally
restrained, smiling, laughing, and crying less than
Caucasian-American babies (Camras et al., 1998;
Garstein et al., 2010).
These variations may have genetic roots, but they
are supported by cultural beliefs and practices. Japanese
mothers usually say that babies come into the world as
This Japanese grandmother holds her grandchild close while interacting gently and
independent beings who must learn to rely on their parsoothingly. These caregiving behaviors contribute to Japanese babies’ calm, emotionents through close physical contact. American mothers
ally restrained temperamental style.
typically believe just the opposite—that they must wean
the baby away from dependency toward autonomy.
Consistent with these beliefs, Asian mothers interact gently, soothingly, and gesturally with
their babies, whereas Caucasian mothers use a more active, stimulating, verbal approach
(Rothbaum et al., 2000b). Also, recall from our discussion of emotional self-regulation that
Chinese and Japanese adults discourage babies from expressing strong emotion, which contributes further to their infants’ tranquility.
Nonshared Environment In families with several children, an additional influence on
temperament is at work. Recall from Chapter 8 that nonshared environmental influences—
those that make siblings different from one another—play an important role in intelligence.
They are also influential in personality development. TAKE A MOMENT... Ask several parents to describe each of their children’s personalities. You will see that they often emphasize
differences between siblings: “She’s a lot more active.” “He’s more sociable.” “She’s far more
persistent.” As a result, parents often regard siblings as more distinct than other observers do.
In a large study of 1- to 3-year-old twin pairs, parents rated identical twins as resembling each
other less in temperament than researchers’ ratings indicated. And whereas researchers rated
CHAPTER 10 Emotional Development
Identical twins
Fraternal twins
Correlation Between Ratings of Emotional Reactivity
fraternal twins as moderately similar, parents viewed them as
somewhat opposite in temperamental style (see Figure 10.2)
(Saudino, 2003).
Parents’ tendency to emphasize each child’s unique qualities affects their child-rearing practices. In a study of 3-yearold identical twins, mothers’ differential treatment of each
twin predicted differences between twins in psychological
adjustment. The pair member who received more warmth
and less harshness was more positive in mood and prosocial
behavior and less likely to have behavior problems (DeaterDeckard et al., 2001). Each child, in turn, evokes responses
from caregivers that are consistent with parental beliefs and
the child’s developing temperament.
Besides different experiences within the family, siblings
have distinct experiences with teachers, peers, and others in
their community that affect personality development. And as
they get older, siblings often seek ways to differ from one
another. For all these reasons, both identical and fraternal
twins tend to become increasingly dissimilar in personality
with age (Loehlin & Martin, 2001; McCartney, Harris, & Bernieri, 1990). The less contact twins have with each other, the
stronger this effect.
Are nonshared factors more important in personality
development than shared environmental influences—those that
affect all siblings similarly? In Chapter 14, we will see that
shared factors, such as family stress and child-rearing styles,
also affect children’s personalities. In sum, we must think of
temperament and personality as affected by a complex mix of
environmental conditions, some child-specific and others
stemming from shared family conditions.
Rated as
similar in
Rated as
opposing in
Temperament correlations for identical and
fraternal twin pairs, as rated by researchers and parents. Parents
rated 1- to 3-year-old identical twins as resembling each other less in temperament than researchers did. And whereas researchers rated fraternal
twins as moderately similar, parents rated them as somewhat opposing in
temperament. The correlations depicted here are for emotional reactivity.
Activity level, shyness, and attention span/persistence yielded similar findings. (Adapted from Saudino, 2003.)
Temperament as a Predictor of Children’s Behavior
Research on temperament provides a powerful illustration of the child’s contribution to his
or her own development. Children’s temperamental traits consistently predict their cognitive
and social functioning.
Almost as soon as it can be measured, children’s attention span forecasts their learning
and cognitive development. For example, persistence during the first year correlates with
infant mental test scores and preschool IQ (Matheny, 1989). During early and middle childhood, persistence continues to predict IQ, along with literacy and mathematical progress
and grades in school. In contrast, distractibility, high activity level, and difficult temperament
are linked to poor school performance (Coplan, Barber, & Lagacé-Séguin, 1999; Martin,
Olejnik, & Gaddis, 1994; Strelau, Zawadzki, & Piotrowska, 2001).
Temperament is also related to social behavior. Highly active preschoolers tend to be
sociable with peers, but they also become involved in more conflict than their less active
agemates. Shy, inhibited children often watch classmates and engage in anxious behaviors
that discourage interaction, such as hovering around play activities and rarely speaking
(Chen, Wang, & DeSouza, 2006; Henderson et al., 2004). And as we will see in Chapter 12,
inhibited children’s high anxiety leads to more discomfort after wrongdoing and a greater
sense of responsibility to others. As a result, early fearfulness protects children against
becoming aggressive. In contrast, irritable, impulsive children are at risk for aggressive and
antisocial conduct (Sanson, Hemphill, & Smart, 2004; Vitaro et al., 2006).
In some cases, as with shy children, social behavior seems to be a direct result of temperament. In other instances, it reflects the way people respond to the child’s emotional style.
PART IV Personality and Social Development
These fifth graders collaborating on
a science project exhibit a high
capacity for effortful control—a
dimension of temperament that
predicts academic achievement and
many other favorable outcomes.
For example, active, impulsive and irritable, anger-prone
children often elicit negative interaction, which leads
to conflict (Bridgett et al., 2009; van den Akker et al.,
2010). As Chapter 12 will make clear, the relationship of
early impulsivity and emotional negativity with later
aggression and lawbreaking acts has much to do with
the inept parenting often evoked by distractible, headstrong children.
Finally, beginning in the preschool years, children’s
capacity for effortful control is linked to favorable development and adjustment in cultures as diverse as China
and the United States (Zhou, Lengua, & Wang, 2009).
Positive outcomes include persistence, task mastery, academic achievement, cooperation, moral maturity (such
as concern about wrongdoing and willingness to apologize), empathy, sympathy, and prosocial behaviors of
sharing and helpfulness (Eisenberg, 2010; Kochanska &
Aksan, 2006; Posner & Rothbart, 2007; Valiente, LemeryChalfant, & Swanson, 2010). Effortful control is also positively related to children’s resistance
to stress. For example, it buffers them against the negative impact of parental conflict, perhaps because children high in effortful control can shift attention away from their parents’
negative behaviors and their own anxiety to more positive features of their social environments (David & Murphy, 2007). At the same, time, as we will see next, parenting practices
can impede or promote children’s effortful control, thereby profoundly altering the link
between early temperament and development.
Temperament and Child Rearing:
The Goodness-of-Fit Model
If a child’s disposition interferes with learning or getting along with others, adults must gently but consistently counteract the child’s maladaptive style. Thomas and Chess (1977) proposed a goodness-of-fit model to explain how temperament and environment together can
produce favorable outcomes. Goodness of fit involves creating child-rearing environments
that recognize each child’s temperament while encouraging more adaptive functioning.
Goodness of fit helps explain why difficult children (who withdraw from new experiences and react negatively and intensely) are at high risk for later adjustment problems.
These children frequently experience parenting that fits poorly with their dispositions. As
infants, they are less likely to receive sensitive caregiving (van den Boom & Hoeksma, 1994).
By the second year, their parents—especially in low-SES families—tend to use angry, punitive discipline, which undermines the development of effortful control. As the child reacts
with defiance and disobedience, parents become increasingly stressed (Bridgett et al., 2009;
Paulussen-Hoogeboom et al., 2007). As a result, they continue their coercive tactics and also
discipline inconsistently, sometimes rewarding the child’s noncompliance by giving in to it
(Calkins, 2002). These practices sustain and even increase the child’s irritable, conflict-ridden
style (van Aken et al., 2007; Pesonen et al., 2008).
In contrast, when parents are positive and sensitive, which helps babies regulate emotion, difficultness declines by age 2 to 3 (Feldman, Greenbaum, & Yirmiya, 1999; Raikes
et al., 2007). In toddlerhood and childhood, parental sensitivity, support, clear expectations, and limits foster effortful control, reducing the likelihood that difficultness will persist and lead to emotional and social difficulties (Cipriano & Stifter, 2010; Jaffari-Bimmel
et al., 2006).
Recent evidence indicates that temperamentally difficult children function much worse
than other children when exposed to inept parenting, yet benefit most from good parenting
(Pluess & Belsky, 2011). Using molecular genetic analyses, researchers are investigating
gene–environment interactions (see page 121 in Chapter 3) that explain this finding. In one
CHAPTER 10 Emotional Development
Correlation with Shyness
study, 2-year-olds with a chromosome 17 gene containing a certain
repetition of DNA base pairs (called short 5-HTTLPR), which
interferes with functioning of the inhibitory neurotransmitter serotonin (and, thus, greatly increases the risk of negative mood and
self-regulation difficulties), became increasingly irritable as their
mothers’ anxiety about parenting increased (Ivorra et al., 2010).
Maternal anxiety had little impact on children without this genetic
marker. In another investigation, preschoolers with the short
5-HTTLPR gene benefited, especially, from positive parenting. With
parental affection and support, their capacity for self-regulation
equaled that of agemates with a low-risk genotype (Kochanska,
Philibert, & Barry, 2009).
Effective parenting of challenging children, however, also
depends on life conditions—good parental mental health, marital
harmony, and favorable economic conditions (Schoppe-Sullivan
et al., 2007). In a comparison of the temperaments of Russian and
U.S. babies, Russian infants were more emotionally negative, fearful,
and upset when frustrated (Gartstein, Slobodskaya, & Kinsht, 2003).
At the time of the study, Russia’s national economy was severely
A parent’s firm but affectionate
approach to child rearing can help
depressed. Because of financial worries and longer work hours, Russian parents may have
temperamentally difficult children
lacked time and energy for the patient parenting that protects against difficultness.
gain in self-regulatory capacity.
Cultural values also affect the fit between parenting and child temperament, as research
in China illustrates. In the past, collectivist values, which discourage self-assertion, led Chinese adults to evaluate shy children positively. Several studies showed that shy Chinese children of a decade or two ago appeared well-adjusted, both academically and socially (Chen,
Rubin, & Li, 1995; Chen et al., 1998). But rapid expansion of a market economy in China,
which requires assertiveness and sociability for success, may be responsible for a recent
change in Chinese parents’ and teachers’ attitudes toward childhood shyness (Chen, Wang, &
DeSouza, 2006; Yu, 2002). Among Shanghai fourth graders, the association between shyness
and adjustment also changed over time. Whereas shyness was positively correlated with
teacher-rated competence, peer acceptance, leadership, and
academic achievement in 1990, these relationships weakened
in 1998 and reversed in 2002, when they mirrored findings of
Western research (see Figure 10.3) (Chen et al., 2005). Cultural
context makes a difference in whether shy children receive sup+.20
Peer acceptance
Shyness is
port or disapproval and whether they adjust well or poorly.
An effective match between rearing conditions and child
with good
temperament is best accomplished early, before unfavorable
temperament–environment relationships produce maladjustment. Both difficult and shy children benefit from warm,
accepting parenting that makes firm but reasonable demands
for mastering new experiences. With reserved, inactive toddlers, highly stimulating parenting—questioning, instructing,
Shyness is
and pointing out objects—fosters exploration. Yet for highly
with poor
active toddlers, these same parental behaviors are too direc2002
tive, dampening their play and curiosity (Miceli et al., 1998).
The goodness-of-fit model reminds us that babies have
unique dispositions that adults must accept. Parents can neither take full credit for their children’s virtues nor be blamed
for all their faults. But parents can turn an environment that FIGURE 10.3 Changes over time in correlations between shyness
exaggerates a child’s problems into one that builds on the and adjustment among Chinese fourth graders. In 1990, shy Chinese
child’s strengths. In the following sections, we will see that children appeared well-adjusted. But as China’s market economy expanded
goodness of fit is also at the heart of infant–caregiver attach- and valuing of self-assertion and sociability increased, the direction of the
correlations shifted. In 2002, shyness was negatively associated with adjustment. This first intimate relationship grows out of interaction ment. These findings are for teacher-rated competence and peer acceptance.
between parent and baby, to which the emotional styles of Those for leadership (holding offices in student organizations) and academic
both partners contribute.
achievement changed similarly. (Adapted from Chen et al., 2005.)
PART IV Personality and Social Development
■ How do genetic and environmental factors work
together to influence temperament? Cite examples from research
on nonshared environmental influences, cultural variations in
temperament, and goodness of fit.
Apply ■ Mandy and Jeff are parents of 2-year-old inhibited
Sam and 3-year-old difficult Maria. Explain the importance of
effortful control to Mandy and Jeff, and suggest ways they can
strengthen it in each of their children.
Connect ■ Do findings on ethnic differences in temperament
illustrate genetic–environmental correlation, discussed on pages
122–123 in Chapter 3? Explain.
What are the unique features
of ethological theory of
Describe how researchers
measure the security of
attachment, and discuss the
stability of attachment
Development of Attachment
Attachment is the strong, affectionate tie we have with special people in our lives that
leads us to experience pleasure and joy when we interact with them and to be comforted by
their nearness in times of stress. By the second half of the first year, infants have become
attached to familiar people who have responded to their needs.
TAKE A MOMENT... Watch how babies of this age single out their parents for special
attention. When the parent enters the room, the baby breaks into a broad, friendly smile.
When she picks him up, he pats her face, explores her hair, and snuggles against her. When
he feels anxious or afraid, he crawls into her lap and clings closely.
Freud first suggested that the infant’s emotional tie to the mother is the foundation for all later relationships. Contemporary research indicates that—although the
parent–infant bond is vitally important—later development is influenced not just by
early attachment experiences but also by the continuing quality of the parent–child
Attachment has also been the subject of intense theoretical debate. Recall from
Chapter 1 how the psychoanalytic perspective regards feeding as the central context
in which caregivers and babies build this close emotional bond. Behaviorism, too,
emphasizes the importance of feeding, but for different reasons. According to a wellknown behaviorist explanation, infants learn to prefer the mother’s soft caresses,
warm smiles, and tender words because these events are paired with tension relief as
she satisfies the baby’s hunger.
Although feeding is an important context for building a close relationship,
attachment does not depend on hunger satisfaction. In the 1950s, a famous experiment showed that rhesus monkeys reared with terry-cloth and wire-mesh “surrogate
mothers” clung to the soft terry-cloth substitute, even though the wire-mesh “mother”
held the bottle and infants had to climb on it to be fed (Harlow & Zimmerman,
1959). Human infants, too, become attached to family members who seldom feed
them, including fathers, siblings, and grandparents. And toddlers in Western cultures
who sleep alone and experience frequent daytime separations from their parents
sometimes develop strong emotional ties to cuddly objects, such as blankets or teddy
bears, that play no role in infant feeding!
Both psychoanalytic and behaviorist accounts of attachment have another problem: They emphasize the caregiver’s contribution to the attachment relationship but
pay little attention to the importance of the infant’s characteristics.
Discuss infants’ formation of
multiple attachments and the
role of early attachment
quality in later development.
■ How would you describe your temperament as a
young child? Do you think it has remained stable, or has it
changed? What factors might be involved?
Baby monkeys reared with “surrogate
mothers” preferred to cling to a soft terrycloth “mother” over a wire-mesh “mother”
holding a bottle—evidence that parent–
infant attachment is based on more than
satisfaction of hunger.
Bowlby’s Ethological Theory
Today, ethological theory of attachment, which recognizes the infant’s emotional tie
to the caregiver as an evolved response that promotes survival, is the most widely
accepted view. John Bowlby (1969), who first applied this idea to the infant–caregiver
CHAPTER 10 Emotional Development
bond, retained the psychoanalytic idea that quality of attachment to the caregiver has
profound implications for the child’s feelings of security and capacity to form trusting
At the same time, Bowlby was inspired by Konrad Lorenz’s studies of imprinting (see
Chapter 1). Bowlby believed that the human infant, like the young of other animal species,
is endowed with a set of built-in behaviors that keep the parent nearby to protect the infant
from danger and to provide support for exploring and mastering the environment (Waters
& Cummings, 2000). Contact with the parent also ensures that the baby will be fed, but
Bowlby pointed out that feeding is not the basis for attachment. Rather, attachment can best
be understood in an evolutionary context in which survival of the species—through ensuring both safety and competence—is of utmost importance.
According to Bowlby, the infant’s relationship with the parent begins as a set of innate
signals that call the adult to the baby’s side. Over time, a true affectionate bond forms, supported by new emotional and cognitive capacities as well as by a history of warm, sensitive
care. Attachment develops in four phases:
1. Preattachment phase (birth to 6 weeks). Built-in signals—grasping, smiling, crying, and
gazing into the adult’s eyes—help bring newborn babies into close contact with other
humans. Babies of this age recognize their own mother’s smell, voice, and face (see
Chapter 4). But they are not yet attached to her, since they do not mind being left with
an unfamiliar adult.
2. “Attachment-in-the-making” phase (6 weeks to 6 to 8 months). During this phase,
infants respond differently to a familiar caregiver than to a stranger. For example, the
baby smiles, laughs, and babbles more freely with the mother and quiets more quickly
when she picks him up. As infants learn that their own actions affect the behavior of
those around them, they begin to develop a sense of trust—the expectation that the
caregiver will respond when signaled—but they still do not protest when separated
Watch an 8- to 18-month-old
from her.
at play for 20 to 30 minutes.
3. “Clear-cut” attachment phase (6 to 8 months to 18 months to 2 years). Now attachDescribe the baby’s use of
ment to the familiar caregiver is evident. Babies display separation anxiety, becoming
the parent or other familiar
upset when their trusted caregiver leaves. Like stranger anxiety (see page 405), separacaregiver as a secure base
tion anxiety does not always occur; it depends on infant temperament and the current
from which to explore.
situation. But in many cultures, separation anxiety increases between 6 and 15 months,
suggesting that infants have developed a clear understanding that the caregiver continues to exist when not in view. Consistent with this idea,
babies who have not yet mastered Piagetian object permanence usually do not become anxious when separated from
the parent (Lester et al., 1974).
Besides protesting the parent’s departure, older infants
and toddlers try hard to maintain her presence. They
approach, follow, and climb on her in preference to others.
And they use the familiar caregiver as a secure base from
which to explore.
4. Formation of a reciprocal relationship (18 months to 2 years
and on). By the end of the second year, rapid growth in
representation and language enables toddlers to understand some of the factors that influence the parent’s coming
and going and to predict her return. As a result, separation protest declines. Now children negotiate with the caregiver, using requests and persuasion to alter her goals. For
example, one 2-year-old asked her parents to read a story
before leaving her with a babysitter. The extra time with her
parents, along with a better understanding of where they
Because this 2-year-old has the language and representational skills
were going (“to have dinner with Uncle Charlie”) and when
to predict his mother’s return, separation anxiety declines. He accepts
they would be back (“right after you go to sleep”), helped
his mother’s departure.
this child withstand her parents’ absence.
PART IV Personality and Social Development
According to Bowlby (1980), out of their
experiences during these four phases, children
Unresponsive caregiver
construct an enduring affectionate tie that they
Responsive caregiver
can use as a secure base in the parents’ absence.
This image serves as an internal working model,
or set of expectations about the availability of
attachment figures, their likelihood of providing
support during times of stress, and the self ’s inter(a)
action with those figures. The internal working
model becomes a vital part of personality, servTest Events
ing as a guide for all future close relationships
(Bretherton & Munholland, 1999).
Consistent with these ideas, as early as the
second year, toddlers form attachment-related
expectations about parental comfort and support.
In two studies, securely attached 12- to 16-month0
(b) Responsive
(c) Unresponsive
olds looked longer at a video of an unresponsive
caregiver (inconsistent with their expectations)
than a video of a responsive caregiver. Insecurely
FIGURE 10.4 Testing toddlers
attached toddlers, in contrast, did not distinguish between the two (see Figure 10.4) (Johnson,
for internal working models of
Dweck, & Chen, 2007; Johnson et al., 2010). With age, children continually revise and
attachment. (a) First, 12- to
expand their internal working model as their cognitive, emotional, and social capacities
16-month-olds were habituated to a
increase and as they interact with parents and form other close bonds with adults, siblings,
video of two animated shapes, one
large (the “caregiver”) and one small
and friends.
Mean Looking Time in Seconds
Habituation Event
(the “child”). The caregiver traveled
halfway up an incline to a plateau,
and the child began to “cry,” depicted
by pulsing and bouncing accompanied by an infant cry. Next the
researchers presented two test
events: (b) In the responsive-caregiver
outcome, the caregiver returned to the
child. (c) In the unresponsive-caregiver
outcome, the caregiver continued
up the slope away from the child.
Securely attached toddlers looked
longer at the unresponsive outcome,
depicting caregiver behavior inconsistent with their attachment-related
expectations. Insecurely attached
toddlers did not differentiate
between the two test events. (Adapted
from Johnson, Dweck, & Chen, 2007.)
Measuring the Security of Attachment
Although all family-reared babies become attached to a familiar caregiver by the second year,
the quality of this relationship differs from child to child. Some infants appear relaxed and
secure in the presence of the caregiver; they know they can count on her for protection
and support. Others seem anxious and uncertain.
A widely used laboratory technique for assessing the quality of attachment between
1 and 2 years of age is the Strange Situation. In designing it, Mary Ainsworth and her colleagues (1978) reasoned that securely attached infants and toddlers should use the parent as
a secure base from which to explore in an unfamiliar playroom. In addition, when the parent
leaves, an unfamiliar adult should be less comforting than the parent. The Strange Situation
takes the baby through eight short episodes in which brief separations from and reunions
with the caregiver occur (see Table 10.2).
Observing infants’ responses to these episodes, researchers identified a secure attachment pattern and three patterns of insecurity; a few babies cannot be classified (Ainsworth
et al., 1978; Barnett & Vondra, 1999; Main & Solomon, 1990; Thompson, 2006). Although
separation anxiety varies among the groups, the baby’s reunion responses define attachment
Secure attachment. These infants use the parent as a secure base. When separated, they
may or may not cry, but if they do, it is because the parent is absent and they prefer her
to the stranger. When the parent returns, they actively seek contact, and their crying is
reduced immediately. About 60 percent of North American infants in middle-SES
families show this pattern. (In low-SES families, a smaller proportion of babies show
the secure pattern, with higher proportions falling into the insecure patterns.)
Avoidant attachment. These infants seem unresponsive to the parent when she is present. When she leaves, they usually are not distressed, and they react to the stranger in
much the same way as to the parent. During reunion, they avoid or are slow to greet the
parent, and when picked up, they often fail to cling. About 15 percent of North American infants in middle-SES families show this pattern.
CHAPTER 10 Emotional Development
Episodes in the Strange Situation
TABLE 10.2
Researcher introduces parent and baby to playroom and then leaves.
Parent is seated while baby plays with toys.
Parent as a secure base
Stranger enters, is seated, and talks to parent.
Reaction to unfamiliar adult
Parent leaves room. Stranger responds to baby and offers comfort if baby is upset.
Separation anxiety
Parent returns, greets baby, and offers comfort if necessary. Stranger leaves room.
Reaction to reunion
Parent leaves room.
Separation anxiety
Stranger enters room and offers comfort.
Ability to be soothed by stranger
Parent returns, greets baby, offers comfort if necessary, and tries to reinterest baby in toys.
Reaction to reunion
Note: Episode 1 lasts about 30 seconds; each of the remaining episodes lasts about 3 minutes. Separation episodes are cut short if the baby becomes very upset. Reunion
episodes are extended if the baby needs more time to calm down and return to play.
Source: Ainsworth et al., 1978.
Resistant attachment. Before separation, these infants seek closeness to the parent and
often fail to explore. When the parent leaves, they are usually distressed, and on her
return they combine clinginess with angry, resistive behavior, struggling when held and
sometimes hitting and pushing. Many continue to cry and cling after being picked up
and cannot be comforted easily. About 10 percent of North American infants in middle-SES families show this pattern.
Disorganized/disoriented attachment. This pattern reflects the greatest insecurity. At
reunion, these infants show confused, contradictory behaviors—for example, looking
away while the parent is holding them or approaching the parent with flat,
depressed emotion. Most display a dazed facial expression, and a few cry out
unexpectedly after having calmed down or display odd, frozen postures.
About 15 percent of North American infants in middle-SES families show
this pattern.
Researchers have modified Strange Situation procedures to make them
appropriate for preschoolers, looking closely at the child’s seeking of physical
closeness, eye contact, expressions of emotion, and content and style of parentdirected speech—especially during reunion episodes. The resulting preschool
attachment classifications are modestly associated with previously obtained
infant assessments (Crittenden, 2000; Main & Cassidy, 1988; Moss et al., 2005b).
An alternative method, the Attachment Q-Sort, suitable for children between
1 and 4 years, depends on home observations (Waters et al., 1995). Either the
parent or a highly trained observer sorts 90 behaviors—such as “Child greets
mother with a big smile when she enters the room,” “If mother moves very far,
child follows along,” and “Child uses mother’s facial expressions as a good source
of information when something looks risky or threatening”—into nine categories, ranging from “highly descriptive” to “not at all descriptive” of the child.
Then a score, ranging from high to low in security, is computed.
Because the Q-Sort taps a wider array of attachment-related behaviors than
the Strange Situation, it may better reflect the parent–child relationship in everyday life. However, the Q-sort method is time-consuming, requiring a nonparent
informant to spend several hours observing the child before sorting the descriptors, and it does not differentiate between types of insecurity. The Q-Sort responses
of expert observers correspond well with babies’ secure-base behavior in the
This securely attached 1-year-old
actively seeks contact and is
calmed by his father’s return.
An avoidantly attached toddler
would be slow to greet the parent;
a resistantly attached child would
be both clingy and angry.
PART IV Personality and Social Development
Strange Situation; more research is needed to verify a correspondence for preschoolers
(Posada, 2006). Parents’ Q-Sorts, however, show little relationship with Strange Situation
assessments (van IJzendoorn et al., 2004). Parents of insecure children, especially, may have
difficulty accurately reporting their child’s attachment behaviors.
Stability of Attachment
Research on the stability of attachment patterns between 1 and 2 years of age yields a wide
range of findings. In some studies, as many as 70 to 90 percent of babies remain the same in
their reactions to parents; in others, only 30 to 40 percent do (Thompson, 2000, 2006). A
close look at which babies stay the same and which ones change yields a more consistent
picture. Quality of attachment is usually secure and stable for middle-SES babies experiencing favorable life conditions. And infants who move from insecurity to security typically
have well-adjusted mothers with positive family and friendship ties. Perhaps many became
parents before they were psychologically ready but, with social support, grew into the role.
In contrast, in low-SES families with many daily stresses and little social support, attachment generally moves away from security or changes from one insecure pattern to another
(Belsky et al., 1996; Fish, 2004; Vondra, Hommerding, & Shaw, 1999; Vondra et al., 2001). In
one long-term follow-up of a poverty-stricken sample, many securely attached infants ended
up insecure when reassessed in early adulthood. Child maltreatment, maternal depression,
and poor family functioning in adolescence distinguished these young people from the
few who stayed securely attached (Weinfeld, Sroufe, & Egeland, 2000; Weinfeld, Whaley, &
Egeland, 2004).
These findings indicate that securely attached babies more often maintain their attachment status than insecure babies, whose relationship with the caregiver is, by definition,
fragile and uncertain. The exception is disorganized/disoriented attachment—an insecure
pattern that is as stable as attachment security: Nearly 70 percent retain this classification over
the second year, and the majority remain highly insecure over the long term, continuing to
express confused, ambivalent feelings toward parents in early adulthood (Hesse & Main, 2000;
Sroufe et al., 2005; Weinfield, Whaley, & Egeland, 2004).
As you will soon see, many disorganized/disoriented
infants experience extremely negative caregiving, which
may disrupt emotional self-regulation so severely that
attachment disorganization persists.
Cultural Variations
Percentage of Infants
United States
A cross-cultural comparison of infants’ reactions in the
Strange Situation. A high percentage of German babies seem avoidantly attached,
whereas a substantial number of Japanese and Israeli kibbutz infants appear resistantly
attached. Note that these responses may not reflect true insecurity. Instead, they are
probably due to cultural differences in child-rearing practices. (Adapted from Sagi et al.,
1995; van IJzendoorn & Kroonenberg, 1988; van IJzendoorn & Sagi-Schwartz, 2008.)
Cross-cultural evidence indicates that attachment patterns may have to be interpreted differently in certain
cultures. For example, as Figure 10.5 reveals, German
infants show considerably more avoidant attachment
than American babies do. But German parents value
independence and encourage their infants to be nonclingy, so the baby’s behavior may be an intended outcome of cultural beliefs and practices (Grossmann et
al., 1985). In contrast, a study of infants of the Dogon
people of Mali, Africa, revealed that none showed
avoidant attachment to their mothers (True, Pisani, &
Oumar, 2001). Even when grandmothers are primary
caregivers (as they are with firstborn sons), Dogon
mothers remain available to their babies, holding them
close and nursing them promptly in response to hunger and distress.
Japanese infants, as well, rarely show avoidant
attachment (refer again to Figure 10.5). Rather, many
are resistantly attached, but this reaction may not represent true insecurity. Japanese mothers spend much
time in close physical contact with their babies and rarely leave them in
others’ care, so the Strange Situation probably induces greater stress in them
than in infants who experience frequent maternal separations (Takahashi,
1990). Also, Japanese parents expect their babies to be quite upset during
reunion in the Strange Situation. They view the attention-seeking that is part
of resistant attachment as a normal indicator of infants’ efforts to satisfy
dependency and security needs (Rothbaum et al., 2000a, 2007). Likewise,
infants in Israeli kibbutzim frequently show resistant attachment. For these
babies, who can sense the fear of unfamiliar people that is pervasive in their
communities (see page 406), the Strange Situation probably induces unusual
distress (van IJzendoorn & Sagi, 1999). Despite these and other cultural variations, the secure pattern is still the most common attachment quality in all
societies studied to date (van IJzendoorn & Sagi-Schwartz, 2008).
CHAPTER 10 Emotional Development
Factors That Affect Attachment Security
What factors might influence attachment security? Researchers have looked
closely at four important influences: (1) early availability of a consistent caregiver, (2) quality of caregiving, (3) the baby’s characteristics, and (4) family
context, including parents’ internal working models.
Early Availability of a Consistent Caregiver What happens when a
baby does not have the opportunity to establish a close tie to a caregiver? In
a series of studies, René Spitz (1946) observed institutionalized infants whose mothers had
given them up between 3 and 12 months of age. After being placed in a large ward where each
shared a nurse with at least seven others, the babies lost weight, wept, withdrew from their
surroundings, and had difficulty sleeping. If a consistent caregiver did not replace the mother,
the depression deepened rapidly. These institutionalized babies had emotional problems
because they were prevented from forming a bond with one or a few adults (Rutter, 1996).
Another study supports this conclusion. Researchers followed the development of
infants in an institution with a good caregiver–child ratio and a rich selection of books and
toys. However, staff turnover was so rapid that the average child had 50 different caregivers
by age 4½! Many of these children became “late adoptees” who were placed in homes after
age 4. Most developed deep ties with their adoptive parents, indicating that a first attachment bond can develop as late as 4 to 6 years of age (Hodges & Tizard, 1989; Tizard & Rees,
1975). But these children were also more likely to display attachment difficulties, including
an excessive desire for adult attention, “overfriendliness” to unfamiliar adults and peers,
failure to check back with the parent in anxiety-arousing situations, and few friendships.
Children who spent their first year or more in deprived Eastern European orphanages—
though also able to bond with their adoptive or foster parents—show elevated rates of attachment insecurity (van den Dries et al., 2009; Smyke et al., 2010). And they, too, are at high
risk for emotional and social difficulties. Whereas many are indiscriminately friendly, others
are sad, anxious, and withdrawn (Chisholm, 1998; Fisher et al., 1997; O’Connor et al., 2003).
These symptoms typically persist and are associated with wide-ranging mental health problems in middle childhood and adolescence, including cognitive impairments, inattention
and hyperactivity, depression, and either social avoidance or aggressive behavior (Kreppner
et al., 2007, 2010; O’Connor et al., 2003; Rutter et al., 2007, 2010; Zeanah, 2000).
Furthermore, as early as 7 months, institutionalized children show reduced ERP brain
waves in response to facial expressions of emotion and have trouble discriminating such
expressions—outcomes that suggest disrupted formation of neural structures involved in
“reading” emotions (Parker et al., 2005). These problems are still evident in preschoolers
adopted during the second year, who find it hard to match appropriate facial expressions with situations in stories (Fries & Pollak, 2004). Consistent with these findings,
MRI evidence reveals that in adopted children with longer institutional stays, the volume
of the amygdala—a brain region devoted to processing emotional information (see page
190 in Chapter 5)—is atypically large (Tottenham et al., 2010). The larger amygdala, the
worse adopted children perform on emotion-processing tasks and the poorer their emotion
Dogon mothers of Mali, West
Africa, stay close to their babies
and respond promptly and gently
to infant hunger and distress. With
their mothers consistently available, none of the Dogon babies
show avoidant attachment.
PART IV Personality and Social Development
A father and baby engage in a sensitively tuned form of communication
called interactional synchrony, in
which they match emotional states,
especially positive ones. Among
Western infants, this style of communication predicts secure attachment.
regulation—deficits that contribute to their social-relationship and adjustment problems. Overall, the evidence on orphanage children indicates that
fully normal emotional development depends on establishing a close tie with
a caregiver early in life.
Quality of Caregiving Dozens of studies report that sensitive caregiving—
responding promptly, consistently, and appropriately to infants and holding
them tenderly and carefully—is moderately related to attachment security
in both biological and adoptive mother–infant pairs and in diverse cultures
and SES groups (Belsky & Fearon, 2008; DeWolff & van IJzendoorn, 1997; van
IJzendoorn et al., 2004). In contrast, insecurely attached infants tend to have
mothers who engage in less physical contact, handle them awkwardly or in a
“routine” manner, and are sometimes resentful and rejecting, particularly in
response to infant distress (Ainsworth et al., 1978; Isabella, 1993; McElwain &
Booth-LaForce, 2006; Pederson & Moran, 1996).
Also, in studies of Western babies, a special form of communication called
interactional synchrony separates the experiences of secure from insecure
babies. It is best described as a sensitively tuned “emotional dance,” in which
the caregiver responds to infant signals in a well-timed, rhythmic, appropriate
fashion. In addition, both partners match emotional states, especially the
positive ones (Bigelow et al., 2010; Isabella & Belsky, 1991; Nievar & Becker,
2008). Earlier we saw that sensitive face-to-face play, in which interactional synchrony
occurs, increases babies’ sensitivity to others’ emotional messages and helps them regulate
emotion. But moderate adult–infant coordination is a better predictor of attachment security
than “tight” coordination, in which the adult responds to most infant cues (Jaffe et al., 2001).
Perhaps warm, sensitive caregivers use a relaxed, flexible style of communication in which
they comfortably accept and repair emotional mismatches, returning to a synchronous state.
Cultures vary in their view of sensitivity toward infants. Among the Gusii people of
Kenya, for example, mothers rarely cuddle, hug, or interact playfully with their babies,
although they are very responsive to their infants’ needs. Yet most Gusii infants appear
securely attached (LeVine et al., 1994). This suggests that security depends on attentive caregiving, not necessarily on moment-by-moment contingent interaction. Puerto Rican mothers,
who highly value obedience and socially appropriate behavior, often physically direct and
limit their babies’ actions—a style of caregiving linked to attachment security in Puerto
Rican culture (Carlson & Horwood, 2003). But in many Western cultures, such physical
control and restriction of exploration are viewed as intrusive and predict insecurity (Belsky
& Fearon, 2008; Whipple, Bernier, & Mageau, 2011).
Compared with securely attached infants, avoidant babies tend to receive overstimulating
care. Their mothers might, for example, talk energetically to them while they are looking
away or falling asleep. By avoiding the mother, these infants try to escape from overwhelming
interaction. Resistant infants often experience inconsistent care: Their mothers are unresponsive to infant signals. Yet when the baby begins to explore, these mothers interfere, shifting
the infant’s attention back to themselves. As a result, the baby is overly dependent as well as
angry at the mother’s lack of involvement (Cassidy & Berlin, 1994; Isabella & Belsky, 1991).
Highly inadequate caregiving is a powerful predictor of disruptions in attachment. Child
abuse and neglect (topics we will consider in Chapter 14) are associated with all three forms
of attachment insecurity. Among maltreated infants, disorganized/disoriented attachment is
especially high (van IJzendoorn, Schuengel, & Bakermans-Kranenburg, 1999). Persistently
depressed mothers, mothers with very low marital satisfaction, and parents suffering from a
traumatic event, such as serious illness or loss of a loved one, also tend to promote the
uncertain behaviors of this pattern (Campbell et al., 2004; Madigan et al., 2006; Moss et al.,
2005b). And some mothers of disorganized/disoriented infants engage in frightening, contradictory, and unpleasant behaviors, such as looking scared, teasing the baby, holding the
baby stiffly at a distance, roughly pulling the baby by the arm, or seeking reassurance from
the upset child (Abrams, Rifkin, & Hesse, 2006; Lyons-Ruth, Bronfman, & Parsons, 1999;
Moran et al., 2008). Perhaps the baby’s disorganized behavior reflects a conflicted reaction
to the parent, who sometimes comforts but at other times arouses fear.
CHAPTER 10 Emotional Development
Infant Characteristics Because attachment is the result of a relationship that builds
Mean Rating of
Infant Disorganized Behavior
between two partners, infant characteristics should affect how easily it is established. In
Chapter 3, we saw that prematurity, birth complications, and newborn illness make caregiving more taxing. In families under stress, these difficulties are linked to attachment
insecurity. In one study, the combination of preterm birth and maternal depression—but
not preterm birth alone—increased the likelihood of insecure attachment at 12 months
(Poehlmann & Fiese, 2001). Infants with special needs probably require greater sensitivity,
which stressed parents often cannot provide. But at-risk newborns whose parents have the
time and patience to care for them fare quite well in attachment security (Brisch et al., 2005;
Cox, Hopkins, & Hans, 2000).
The role of infant temperament in attachment security has been intensely debated. Some
researchers believe that infants who are irritable and fearful may simply react to brief separations with intense anxiety, regardless of the parent’s sensitivity to the baby (Kagan, 1998;
Kagan & Fox, 2006). Consistent with this view, emotionally reactive, difficult babies are
more likely to develop later insecure attachments (van IJzendoorn et al., 2004; Vaughn, Bost,
& van IJzendoorn, 2008).
Again, however, other evidence suggests that parental mental health and caregiving are
involved. In a study extending from birth to age 2, difficult infants more often had highly
anxious mothers—a combination that, by the second year, often resulted in a “disharmonious relationship” characterized by both maternal insensitivity and attachment insecurity
(Symons, 2001). Infant difficultness and maternal anxiety seemed to perpetuate each other,
impairing caregiving and the security of the parent–infant bond.
Other research focusing on disorganized/disoriented attachment has uncovered gene–
environment interactions (Gervai, 2009). In one of these investigations, mothers’ experience
of unresolved loss of a loved one or other trauma was associated with attachment disorganization only in infants with a chromosome-11 gene having a certain repetition of DNA base
pairs (called DRD4 7-repeat), which is linked to deficient self-regulation (see Figure 10.6)
(van IJzendoorn & Bakermans-Kranenburg, 2006). Babies with this genetic marker, who face
special challenges in managing intense emotion, were more vulnerable
to the negative impact of maternal adjustment problems.
If children’s temperaments alone determined attachment security,
we would expect attachment, like temperament, to be at least moderLoss/trauma unresolved
ately heritable. Yet twin comparisons reveal that the heritability of
Loss/trauma resolved
attachment is virtually nil (O’Connor & Croft, 2001; Roisman & Fraley,
2008). In fact, about two-thirds of siblings—whether identical twins,
fraternal twins, nontwin siblings, unrelated siblings, or foster infants—
establish similar attachment patterns with their parent, although the
siblings often differ in temperament (Cole, 2006; Dozier et al., 2001).
This suggests that the strongest parental influences on attachment security are nonshared experiences, reflecting most parents’ efforts to adjust
their caregiving to each child’s individual needs.
A major reason that children’s characteristics do not show strong
relationships with attachment quality is that their influence depends on
goodness of fit. From this perspective, many child attributes can lead to
secure attachment as long as caregivers sensitively adjust their behavior
to fit the baby’s needs (Seifer & Schiller, 1995; Sroufe, 1985).
DRD4 7-Repeat
No DRD4 7-Repeat
Interventions that teach parents to interact sensitively with difficultGenotype
to-care-for infants are highly successful in enhancing both quality of
caregiving and attachment security (Velderman et al., 2006). One program
that focused on both maternal sensitivity and effective discipline was FIGURE 10.6 The combination of maternal unreparticularly effective in reducing stress reactivity (as indicated by lower solved loss/trauma and infant DRD4 7-repeat gene
cortisol levels) and disruptive behavior among toddlers with the DRD4 predicts disorganized/disoriented attachment. Mothers’
7-repeat gene, who are at risk for later attention-deficit hyperactivity experience of unresolved loss or other trauma was associated
disorder and externalizing behavior problems (Bakermans-Kranenburg with disorganized/disoriented attachment only in 1-year-olds
with the DRD4 7-repeat gene. (A rating of disorganized behavior
et al., 2008a, 2008b; Bakermans-Kranenburg & van IJzendoorn, 2011). in the Strange Situation higher than 5 leads to the attachment
These findings suggest that the DRD4 7-repeat gene makes children classification of disorganized/disoriented.) (Adapted from van
more susceptible to the effects of both negative and positive parenting!
IJzendoorn & Bakermans-Kranenburg, 2006.)
PART IV Personality and Social Development
Family Circumstances As we have indicated in this and previous chapters, quality of caregiving can be fully understood only in terms of the larger context of the
parent–child relationship. Job loss, a failing marriage, financial strain, and other
stressors can undermine attachment indirectly, by interfering with the sensitivity of
parental care. These stressors can also affect babies’ sense of security directly by altering the emotional climate of the family (for example, exposing them to angry adult
interactions) or by disrupting familiar daily routines (Finger et al., 2009; Raikes &
Thompson, 2005).
The arrival of a new sibling illustrates how family circumstances can affect
attachment quality. In one study, firstborn preschoolers who declined in attachment
security after the birth of a baby had mothers who were depressed, anxious, or hostile before the birth. These symptoms were associated with marital friction (which
the firstborns probably sensed) as well as with unfavorable mother–firstborn interaction. When mothers had cooperative marriages, coped well with the second birth,
and stayed involved with their older child, preschoolers maintained a secure attachment bond (Teti et al., 1996). The availability of social supports, especially parents
with a good relationship who assist each other with caregiving, reduces family stress
and predicts greater attachment security (Belsky, 2006; Owen & Cox, 1997).
Parents’ Internal Working Models Parents bring to the family context their
Family circumstances are linked to
attachment quality. Observing her
parents’ heated quarrels may undermine this child’s sense of emotional
TABLE 10.3
own history of attachment experiences, from which they construct internal working
models that they apply to the bonds they establish with their babies. To assess parents’ “state of mind” with respect to attachment, Mary Main and her colleagues
devised the Adult Attachment Interview, which asks adults to evaluate childhood memories
of attachment experiences (Main & Goldwyn, 1998).
As Table 10.3 shows, quality of parents’ working models is clearly related to children’s
attachment security in infancy and early childhood—results replicated in Canada, Germany,
Great Britain, Japan, the Netherlands, and the United States. Parents who discuss their childhoods with objectivity and balance tend to have securely attached children. In contrast, parents who dismiss the importance of early relationships or describe them in angry, confused
Relationship of Parents’ Internal Working Models to Infant Attachment Security
These parents show objectivity and balance in discussing their childhood experiences,
whether these were positive or negative. They neither idealize their parents nor feel angry
about the past. Their explanations are coherent and believable. About 58 percent of North
American mothers and fathers without psychological disturbance are autonomous/secure.
These parents devalue the importance of their attachment relationships. They tend to
idealize their parents without being able to recall specific experiences. What they do recall
is discussed intellectually, with little emotion. About 23 percent of North American mothers
and 28 percent of fathers without psychological disturbance are dismissing.
These parents talk about their childhood experiences with highly charged emotion, sometimes
expressing anger toward their parents. They appear overwhelmed and confused about their
early attachments and cannot discuss them coherently. About 19 percent of North American
mothers and 15 percent of fathers without psychological disturbance are preoccupied.
These parents show characteristics of any of the three other patterns. At the same time, they
reason in a disorganized and confused way when loss of a loved one or experiences of
physical or sexual abuse are discussed. Besides displaying one of the other patterns, about
18 percent of North American mothers and 15 percent of fathers without psychological
disturbance are unresolved.
a Correspondences
between type of maternal working model and infant attachment classification hold for 60 to 70 percent of mother–infant pairs.
Source: Bakermans-Kranenburg & van IJzendoorn, 2009; Bretherton & Munholland, 2008.
CHAPTER 10 Emotional Development
ways usually have insecurely attached children (Behrens, Hesse, & Main, 2007; Steele, Steele,
& Fonagy, 1996; van IJzendoorn, 1995). Caregiving behavior helps explain these associations. Parents with autonomous/secure representations are warmer and more sensitive with
their babies. They are also more likely to be supportive and to encourage learning and mastery in their preschoolers, who, in turn, are more affectionate and comfortably interactive
with them (Coyl, Newland, & Freeman, 2010; Pederson et al., 1998; Slade et al., 1999).
But we must not assume any direct transfer of parents’ childhood experiences to quality
of attachment with their own children. Internal working models are reconstructed memories
affected by many factors, including relationship experiences over the life course, personality,
and current life satisfaction. Longitudinal research reveals that negative life events can
weaken the link between an individual’s own attachment security in infancy and a secure
internal working model in adulthood. And insecurely attached babies who become adults
with insecure internal working models often have lives that, based on adulthood self-reports,
are filled with family crises (Waters et al., 2000; Weinfield, Sroufe, & Egeland, 2000).
In sum, our early rearing experiences do not destine us to become either sensitive or
insensitive parents. Rather, the way we view our childhoods—our ability to come to terms
with negative events, to integrate new information into our working models, and to look back
on our own parents in an understanding, forgiving way—appears to be much more influential in how we rear our children than the actual history of care we received (Bretherton &
Munholland, 2008).
Multiple Attachments
As we have indicated, babies develop attachments to a variety of familiar people—not just
mothers but also fathers, grandparents, siblings, and professional caregivers. Although
Bowlby (1969) believed that infants are predisposed to direct their attachment behaviors to
a single special person, especially when they are distressed, his theory allowed for these
multiple attachments.
Fathers An anxious, unhappy 1-year-old who is permitted to choose between the mother
and the father as a source of comfort and security will usually choose the mother. But this
preference typically declines over the second year. And when babies are not distressed, they
approach, vocalize to, and smile equally often at both parents, who in turn are equally
responsive to their infant’s social bids (Bornstein, 2006; Parke, 2002).
Fathers’ sensitive caregiving and interactional synchrony with infants, like mothers’,
predict attachment security (Lundy, 2003; van IJzendoorn et al., 2004). But as infancy progresses, mothers and fathers in many cultures, including Australia, Canada, Germany, India,
Israel, Italy, Japan, and the United States, tend to interact differently with their babies:
Mothers devote more time to physical care and expressing affection, fathers to playful interaction (Freeman & Newland, 2010; Roopnarine et al., 1990).
Mothers and fathers also play differently. Mothers more often provide toys, talk to
infants, and gently play conventional games like pat-a-cake and peekaboo. In contrast,
fathers—especially with their infant sons—tend to engage in highly arousing physical play
with bursts of excitement and surprise that increase as play progresses (Feldman, 2003). As
long as fathers are also sensitive, this stimulating, startling play style helps babies regulate
emotion in intensely arousing situations and may prepare them to venture confidently into
active, unpredictable contexts, including novel physical environments and play with peers
(Cabrera et al., 2007; Hazen et al., 2010; Paquette, 2004). In a German study, fathers’ sensitive, challenging play with preschoolers predicted favorable emotional and social adjustment
from kindergarten to early adulthood (Grossmann et al., 2008).
Play is a vital context in which fathers build secure attachments (Newland, Coyl, &
Freeman, 2008). It may be especially influential in cultures where long work hours prevent
most fathers from sharing in infant caregiving, such as Japan (Hewlett, 2004; Shwalb et al.,
2004). In many Western nations, however, a strict division of parental roles—mother as caregiver, father as playmate—has changed over the past several decades in response to women’s
workforce participation and to cultural valuing of gender equality.
Observe parents at play with
infants at home or a family
gathering. Describe both
similarities and differences
in mothers’ and fathers’
behaviors. Are your
observations consistent
with research findings?
PART IV Personality and Social Development
Mean Hours per Workday
Under 29
amount of time per workday U.S.
employed mothers and fathers
reported spending with their
children (age 12 and younger) in
1977 and 2008. In national sur-
veys of several thousand employed
parents, mothers’ time with children
remained fairly stable from 1977 to
2008; fathers’ time increased substantially. (Adapted from Galinsky,
Aumann, & Bond, 2009.)
A recent U.S. national survey of several thousand
employed workers indicated that U.S. fathers under age 29
devote about 85 percent as much time to children as mothers
do—on average, just over 4 hours per workday, nearly double
the hours young fathers reported three decades ago. Although
fathers age 29 to 42 spend somewhat less time with children,
their involvement has also increased substantially (see Figure
10.7). Today, nearly one-third of U.S. employed women say
that their spouse or partner shares equally in or takes most
responsibility for child-care tasks (Galinsky, Aumann, & Bond,
2009). Paternal availability to children is fairly similar across
SES and ethnic groups, with one exception: Hispanic fathers
spend more time engaged, probably because of the particularly
high value that Hispanic cultures place on family involvement
(Cabrera & García-Coll, 2004; Parke et al., 2004).
Mothers in dual-earner families tend to engage in more
playful stimulation of their babies than mothers who are at home
full-time (Cox et al., 1992). But fathers who are primary caregivers retain their arousing play
style (Lamb & Oppenheim, 1989). These highly involved fathers are less gender-stereotyped
in their beliefs; have sympathetic, friendly personalities; often had fathers who were more
involved in rearing them; and regard parenthood as an especially enriching experience
(Cabrera et al., 2000; Levy-Shiff & Israelashvili, 1988).
Fathers’ involvement with babies occurs within a complex system of family attitudes and
relationships. When both parents believe that men are capable of nurturing infants, fathers
devote more time to caregiving (Beitel & Parke, 1998). A warm marital bond promotes both
parents’ sensitivity and involvement with babies, but it is particularly important for fathers
(Lamb & Lewis, 2004). See the Cultural Influences box on the following page for crosscultural evidence documenting this conclusion—and also highlighting the powerful role of
paternal warmth in children’s development.
Grandparent Primary Caregivers Nearly 2.4 million U.S. children—4 to 5 percent of
the child population—live with their grandparents but apart from parents, in so-called
skipped-generation families (U.S. Census Bureau, 2011). The number of grandparents rearing
grandchildren has increased over the past two decades. The arrangement occurs in all ethnic
groups, though more often in African-American, Hispanic, and Native-American families
than in Caucasian families. Although grandparent caregivers are more
likely to be women than men, many grandfathers participate. Grandparents generally step in when parents’ troubled lives—as a result of
substance abuse, child abuse and neglect, domestic violence, mental
illness, imprisonment, or adolescent parenthood—threaten children’s
well-being (Fuller-Thomson & Minkler, 2005, 2007; Minkler & FullerThomson, 2005). Often these families take in two or more children.
As a result, grandparents tend to assume the parenting role under
highly stressful life circumstances. Unfavorable child-rearing experiences
have left their mark on children, who show high rates of learning difficulties, depression, and antisocial behavior. Absent parents’ adjustment
difficulties strain family relationships. Parents may interfere by violating
the grandparents’ behavioral limits, taking grandchildren away without
permission, or making promises to children that they do not keep.
These youngsters also introduce financial burdens into households that
often are already low-income (Mills, Gomez-Smith, & De Leon, 2005;
Williamson, Softas-Nall, & Miller, 2003). And grandparent caregivers,
at a time when they anticipated having more time for spouses, friends,
Despite stressful family conditions, grandparents who provide
and leisure, instead have less. Many report feeling emotionally drained,
long-term physical and emotional care form deep attachments
depressed, and worried about what will happen to the children if their
with their grandchildren.
own health fails (Hayslip et al., 2002; Kolomer & McCallion, 2005).
CHAPTER 10 Emotional Development
esearch in diverse cultures demonstrates
that fathers’ warmth contributes to children’s long-term favorable development.
In studies of many societies and ethnic groups
around the world, researchers coded paternal
expressions of love and nurturance—evident in
such behaviors as cuddling, hugging, comforting, playing, verbally expressing love, and praising the child’s behavior. Fathers’ sustained
affectionate involvement predicted later cognitive, emotional, and social competence as
strongly as did mothers’ warmth—and occasionally more strongly (Rohner & Veneziano, 2001;
Veneziano, 2003). And in Western cultures, paternal warmth and secure attachment are associated
with children’s mature social behavior and a
reduction in a wide range of difficulties, including childhood emotional and behavior problems
and adolescent substance abuse and delinquency (Grant et al., 2000; Michiels et al., 2010;
Nelson & Coyne, 2009; Tacon & Caldera, 2001).
Fathers who devote little time to physical
caregiving express warmth through play. In a
German study, fathers’ play sensitivity—accepting
toddlers’ play initiatives, adapting play behaviors
to toddlers’ capacities, and responding appropriately to toddlers’ expressions of emotion—predicted children’s secure internal working models
of attachment during middle childhood and
adolescence (Grossmann et al., 2002). Through
play, fathers seemed to transfer to young children a sense of confidence about parental support, which may strengthen their capacity to
master many later challenges.
What factors promote paternal warmth?
Cross-cultural research reveals a consistent
relationship between the amount of time
fathers spend near infants and toddlers and
their expressions of caring and affection
(Rohner & Veneziano, 2001). Consider the Aka
hunters and gatherers of Central Africa, where
fathers spend more time in physical proximity
to their babies than in any other known society. Observations reveal that Aka fathers are
within arm’s reach of infants more than half
the day. They pick up, cuddle, and play with
their babies at least five times as often as
fathers in other hunting-and-gathering societies. Why are Aka fathers so involved? The bond
between Aka husband and wife is unusually
cooperative and intimate. Throughout the day,
couples share hunting, food preparation, and
social and leisure activities. The more time Aka
parents are together, the greater the father’s loving interaction with his baby (Hewlett, 1992).
In Western cultures as well, happily married
fathers whose partners cooperate with them in
parenting spend more time with and interact
more effectively with infants. In contrast, marital dissatisfaction is associated with insensitive
The Powerful Role of Paternal Warmth in Development
In diverse cultures, fathers’ warmth predicts
long-term favorable cognitive, emotional, and
social development.
paternal care (Brown et al., 2010; Lundy, 2002;
Sevigny & Loutzenhiser, 2010). Clearly, fathers’
warm relationships with their partners and their
babies are closely linked. Evidence for the power
of fathers’ affection, reported in virtually every
culture and ethnic group studied, is reason to
encourage more men to engage in nurturing
care of young children.
Nevertheless, because they provide physical and emotional care for an extended time and
are invested in the child’s well-being, grandparent caregivers forge significant attachment
relationships with their grandchildren (Poehlmann, 2003). Warm grandparent–grandchild
bonds help protect children from worsening adjustment problems, even under conditions of
great hardship. Interviews reveal that children often feel loved, cared for, and optimistic
about their futures (Hicks & Goedereis, 2009; Sands, Goldberg-Glen, & Shin, 2009). Still,
grandparent caregivers have a tremendous need for social and financial support and intervention services for their at-risk grandchildren.
Attachment and Later Development
According to psychoanalytic and ethological theories, the inner feelings of affection and
security that result from a healthy attachment relationship support all aspects of psychological development. Consistent with this view, an extended longitudinal study by Alan
Sroufe and his collaborators found that preschoolers who were securely attached as babies
were rated by their teachers as higher in self-esteem, social skills, and empathy than were
their insecurely attached counterparts, who displayed more behavior problems. When studied again at age 11 in summer camp, children who had been secure infants had more favorable relationships with peers, closer friendships, and better social skills, as judged by camp
PART IV Personality and Social Development
counselors. And as these well-functioning school-age children became adolescents and
young adults, they continued to benefit from more supportive social networks, formed more
stable and gratifying romantic relationships, and attained higher levels of education (Elicker,
Englund, & Sroufe, 1992; Sroufe, 2002; Sroufe et al., 2005).
For some researchers, these findings seem to indicate that secure attachment in infancy
causes improved cognitive, emotional, and social competence in later years. Yet contrary
evidence exists. In other longitudinal studies, secure infants generally fared better than insecure infants, but not always (Fearon et al., 2010;
McCartney et al., 2004; Schneider, Atkinson, &
Tardif, 2001; Stams, Juffer, & van IJzendoorn,
2002). Disorganized/disoriented attachment,
however, is an exception: It is consistently related
to internalizing problems (fear and anxiety)
and externalizing problems (anger and aggression) during the preschool and school years.
Disorganized children also show inappropriate
role reversals: In an apparent effort to compensate for their parent’s confused communication,
they use either exaggerated comforting or hostility to try to control the parent’s behavior
(Lyons-Ruth, 1996; Lyons-Ruth, Easterbrooks,
& Cibelli, 1997; Moss et al., 2004, 2006; Moss,
Cyr, & Dubois-Comtois, 2004).
What accounts for the inconsistency in research findings on the consequences of early
attachment quality? Mounting evidence indicates that continuity of caregiving determines
whether attachment security is linked to later development (Lamb et al., 1985; Thompson,
2006). Children whose parents respond sensitively not just in infancy but also in later years
are likely to develop favorably. In contrast, children whose parents react insensitively or who,
over a long period, are exposed to a negative family climate tend to establish lasting patterns of avoidant, resistant, or disorganized behavior and are at greater risk for developmental
A close look at the relationship between parenting and children’s adjustment in the first
few years supports this interpretation. Recall that parents of disorganized/disoriented infants
tend to have serious psychological problems or engage in highly maladaptive caregiving—
conditions that usually persist and that are strongly linked to poor adjustment in children
(Lyons-Ruth, Bronfman, & Parsons, 1999). And when more than 1,000 children were
tracked from age 1 to 3 years, those with histories of secure attachment followed by sensitive
parenting scored highest in cognitive, emotional, and social outcomes. Those with histories
of insecure attachment followed by insensitive parenting scored lowest, while those with
mixed histories of attachment and maternal sensitivity scored in between (Belsky & Fearon,
2002). Specifically, insecurely attached infants whose mothers became more positive and
supportive in early childhood showed signs of developmental recovery.
Does this trend remind you of our discussion of resilience in Chapter 1? A child whose
parental caregiving improves or who has other compensating affectionate ties outside the
immediate family can bounce back from adversity. In contrast, a child who experiences tender care in infancy but lacks sympathetic ties later on is at risk for problems.
Turn back to the evidence on page 428, which indicates that as early as the second year,
toddlers have formed attachment-related expectations about parental comfort and support.
With cognitive development and continuing experiences with caregivers, this rudimentary
internal working model expands into a broader, more complex representation. Recall from
page 414 that parents of securely attached preschoolers converse with them in more elaborative ways, especially about emotion. Some researchers believe that these narratives facilitate
children’s construction of a coherent image of the self in relation to attachment figures
(Fivush, 2006; Thompson 2008). Then, as children encounter new attachment-related experiences, they refine and “update” their internal working model.
Although a secure attachment in infancy does not guarantee continued good parenting,
it does launch the parent–child relationship on a positive path that is likely to continue.
Parental sensitivity—not just in
infancy but throughout childhood—likely contributed to these
teenagers’ social confidence and
capacity for friendship.
CHAPTER 10 Emotional Development
Much research shows that an early warm, positive parent–child tie, sustained over time,
promotes many aspects of children’s development: a more confident and complex selfconcept, more advanced emotional understanding, stronger emotional self-regulation, more
favorable relationships with teachers and peers, more effective social skills, a stronger sense
of moral responsibility, and higher motivation to achieve in school (Thompson, 2006, 2008).
But the effects of early attachment security are conditional—dependent on the quality of the
child’s future relationships. Finally, as our discussion has already revealed and as you will
see again in future chapters, attachment is just one of the complex influences on children’s
psychological development.
■ What factors explain stability in attachment pattern
for some children and change for others? Are these factors also
involved in the link between attachment in infancy and later
development? Explain.
Apply ■ In evaluating her childhood attachment experiences,
Monica recalls her mother as tense and distant. Is Monica’s newborn daughter likely to develop an insecure attachment? Explain,
using research on adults’ internal working models.
Connect ■ Review research on emotional self-regulation on
page 408. How do the caregiving experiences of securely attached
infants promote the development of emotional self-regulation?
■ How would you characterize your internal working
model? What factors, in addition to your early relationship with
your parents, might have influenced it?
Attachment, Parental Employment,
and Child Care
Over the past three decades, women have entered the labor force in record numbers.
Today, more than 60 percent of U.S. mothers with a child under age 2 are employed (U.S.
Census Bureau, 2011). In response to this trend, researchers and laypeople alike have raised
questions about the impact on the attachment bond of child care and daily separations of
infant from parent.
The Social Issues: Health box on page 440 reviews the current controversy over whether
child care threatens young children’s development. As you will see, the weight of evidence
suggests that quality of care is crucially important. Infants and young children exposed to
long hours of mediocre to poor nonparental care, regardless of whether they come from
middle- or low-SES homes, score lower on measures of cognitive and social skills (Belsky
et al., 2007; Hausfather et al., 1997; NICHD Early Child Care Research Network, 2000b,
2001a, 2003b, 2006). In contrast, good child care can reduce the negative impact of a stressed,
poverty-stricken home life, and it sustains the benefits of growing up in an economically
advantaged family (Lamb & Ahnert, 2006; McCartney et al., 2007; NICHD Early Child Care
Research Network, 2003b).
TAKE A MOMENT... Visit several child-care settings, and take notes on what you see. In
contrast to most European countries and to Australia and New Zealand, where child care is
nationally regulated and funded to ensure its quality, reports on U.S. child care raise serious
concerns. Standards are set by the individual states and vary widely. In studies of quality,
only 20 to 25 percent of child-care centers and family child-care settings (in which a caregiver cares for children in her home) provided infants and toddlers with sufficiently positive,
stimulating experiences to promote healthy psychological development. Most settings
offered substandard care (NICHD Early Child Care Research Network, 2000a, 2004c).
Unfortunately, many U.S. children from low-income families experience inadequate
child care (Brooks-Gunn, 2004). But U.S. settings providing the very worst care tend to serve
middle-SES families. These parents are especially likely to place their children in for-profit
centers, where quality tends to be lowest. Low-SES children more often attend publicly subsidized, nonprofit centers, which have smaller group sizes and better teacher–child ratios
(Lamb & Ahnert, 2006). Still, child-care quality for low-SES children varies widely.
Discuss the implications
of parental employment
and child care for
attachment security and
early psychological
PART IV Personality and Social Development
re infants who experience daily separations from their employed parents and
early placement in child care at risk for
attachment insecurity and developmental problems? Some researchers think so, but others
disagree. Let’s look closely at the evidence.
Attachment Quality
Some studies suggest that babies placed in fulltime child care before 12 months of age are
more likely to display insecure attachment
in the Strange Situation (Belsky, 2001, 2005).
But the best current evidence—from the U.S.
National Institute of Child Health and Development (NICHD) Study of Early Child Care, the largest longitudinal investigation to date, including
more than 1,300 infants and their families—
confirms that use of nonparental care by itself
does not affect attachment quality (NICHD Early
Child Care Research Network, 1997, 2001b).
Rather, the relationship between child care and
emotional well-being depends on both family
and child-care experiences.
Family Circumstances
We have seen that family conditions affect children’s attachment security and later adjustment.
Findings of the NICHD Study confirmed that parenting quality, assessed using a combination of
maternal sensitivity and HOME scores (see page
344 in Chapter 8), exerted a more powerful
impact on children’s adjustment than did
exposure to child care (NICHD Early Childhood
Research Network, 1998: Watamura et al., 2011).
For employed parents, balancing work and
caregiving can be stressful. Mothers who are
fatigued and anxious because they feel overloaded by work and family pressures may
respond less sensitively to their babies, thereby
risking the infant’s security. And as paternal
involvement in caregiving has risen (see page
436), many more U.S. fathers in dual-earner
families also report work–family-life conflict
(Galinsky, Aumann, & Bond, 2009).
Quality and Extent of Child Care
Nevertheless, poor-quality child care may contribute to a higher rate of insecure attachment.
In the NICHD Study, when babies were exposed
to combined home and child-care risk factors—
insensitive caregiving at home along with insensitive caregiving in child care, long hours in
child care, or more than one child-care arrangement—the rate of attachment insecurity
increased. Overall, mother–child interaction was
more favorable when children attended higherquality child care and also spent fewer hours in
child care (NICHD Early Child Care Research
Network, 1997, 1999).
Furthermore, when children reached age 3,
a history of higher-quality child care predicted
better social skills (NICHD Early Child Care
Research Network, 2002b). However, at age 4½
to 5, children averaging more than 30 child-care
hours per week displayed more behavior problems, especially defiance, disobedience, and
aggression. For those who had been in childcare centers as opposed to family child-care
homes, this outcome persisted through elementary school (Belsky et al., 2007; NICHD Early
Child Care Research Network, 2003a, 2006).
But these findings do not necessarily mean
that child care causes behavior problems.
Rather, heavy exposure to substandard care,
which is widespread in the United States, may
promote these difficulties, especially when combined with family risk factors. A closer look at
NICHD participants during the preschool years
revealed that those in both poor-quality home
and child-care environments fared worst in
social skills and problem behaviors, whereas
those in both high-quality home and child care
environments fared best. In between were preschoolers in high-quality child care but poorquality homes (Watamura et al., 2011). These
children benefited from the protective influence
of high-quality child care.
Evidence from other industrialized nations
confirms that full-time child care need not harm
children’s development. In Australia, for example, infants who spend full days in governmentfunded, high-quality child-care centers have a
higher rate of secure attachment than infants
informally cared for by relatives, friends, or
babysitters. And amount of time in child care is
unrelated to Australian preschoolers’ behavior
problems (Love et al., 2003).
Still, some children may be particularly
stressed by long child-care hours. Many infants,
toddlers, and preschoolers attending child-care
centers for full days show a mild increase in
saliva concentrations of cortisol across the
day—a pattern that does not occur on days they
spend at home. In one study, children rated as
highly fearful by their caregivers experienced
an especially sharp increase in cortisol levels
(Watamura et al., 2003). Inhibited children may
find the constant company of large numbers of
peers particularly stressful.
Taken together, research suggests that some
infants may be at risk for attachment insecurity
and later adjustment problems due to inadequate
Does Child Care Threaten Infant Attachment Security and Later Adjustment?
High-quality child care, with generous caregiver–
child ratios, small group sizes, and knowledgeable caregivers, can be part of a system that
promotes all aspects of child development,
including attachment security.
child care, long hours in such care, and the joint
pressures their parents experience from full-time
employment and parenthood. But it is inappropriate to use these findings to justify a reduction
in child-care services. When family incomes are
limited or mothers who want to work are forced
to stay at home, children’s emotional security is
not promoted.
Instead, it makes sense to increase the availability of high-quality child care and to relieve
work–family-life conflict by providing parents
with paid employment leave (see page 119 in
Chapter 3) and opportunities for part-time work.
In the NICHD study, part-time (as opposed to fulltime) employment during the baby’s first year
was associated with greater maternal sensitivity
and a higher-quality home environment, which
yielded more favorable development in early
childhood (Brooks-Gunn, Han, & Waldfogel, 2010).
Finally, for child care to foster attachment
security, the professional caregiver’s relationship
with the baby is vital. When caregiver–child
ratios are generous, group sizes are small, and
caregivers are educated about child development and child rearing, caregivers’ interactions
are more positive and children develop more
favorably—cognitively, emotionally, and socially
(McCartney et al., 2007; NICHD Early Child Care
Research Network, 2000a, 2002a, 2006). Child
care with these characteristics can become part
of an ecological system that relieves parental
and child stress, thereby promoting healthy
attachment and development.
CHAPTER 10 Emotional Development
Signs of Developmentally Appropriate Infant and Toddler Child Care
Physical setting
Indoor environment is clean, in good repair, well-lighted, and well-ventilated. Fenced outdoor play
space is available. Setting does not appear overcrowded when children are present.
Toys and equipment
Play materials are appropriate for infants and toddlers and are stored on low shelves within easy
reach. Cribs, highchairs, infant seats, and child-sized tables and chairs are available. Outdoor
equipment includes small riding toys, swings, slide, and sandbox.
Caregiver–child ratio
In child-care centers, caregiver–child ratio is no greater than 1 to 3 for infants and 1 to 6 for
toddlers. Group size (number of children in one room) is no greater than 6 infants with 2 caregivers
and 12 toddlers with 2 caregivers. In family child care, caregiver is responsible for no more than
6 children; within this group, no more than 2 are infants and toddlers. Staffing is consistent,
so infants and toddlers can form relationships with particular caregivers.
Daily activities
Daily schedule includes times for active play, quiet play, naps, snacks, and meals. It is flexible
rather than rigid, to meet the needs of individual children. Atmosphere is warm and supportive,
and children are never left unsupervised.
Interactions among adults
and children
Caregivers respond promptly to infants’ and toddlers’ distress; hold, talk to, sing to, and read
to them; and interact with them in a manner that respects the individual child’s interests and
tolerance for stimulation.
Caregiver qualifications
Caregiver has some training in child development, first aid, and safety.
Relationships with parents
Parents are welcome anytime. Caregivers talk frequently with parents about children’s behavior
and development.
Licensing and accreditation
Child-care setting, whether a center or a home, is licensed by the state. Voluntary accreditation by
the National Academy of Early Childhood Programs (, or the National
Association for Family Child Care ( is evidence of an especially high-quality program.
Source: Copple & Bredekamp, 2009.
See Applying What We Know above for signs of high-quality child care for infants and
toddlers, based on standards for developmentally appropriate practice. These standards,
devised by the U.S. National Association for the Education of Young Children, specify program characteristics that meet the developmental and individual needs of young children,
based on both current research and consensus among experts. When child care meets standards for developmentally appropriate practice, children’s learning opportunities and the
warmth, sensitivity, and stability of their caregivers are especially high.
Child care in the United States is affected by a macrosystem of individualistic values and
weak government regulation and funding. Furthermore, many parents think that their children’s child-care experiences are higher in quality than they really are. Unable to identify
good care, they do not demand it (Helburn, 1995). In recent years, recognizing that child
care is in a state of crisis, the U.S. federal government and some states have allocated additional funds to subsidize its cost, primarily for low-income families. Though far from meeting the need, this increase in resources has had a positive impact on child-care quality and
accessibility (Children’s Defense Fund, 2009).
Good child care is a cost-effective means of supporting the development of all children.
For children whose development is at risk, it can serve as effective early intervention, much
like the programs we discussed in Chapter 8. We will revisit the topics of parental employment and child care in Chapter 14, when we focus on their consequences for development
during childhood and adolescence.
PART IV Personality and Social Development
■ Cite evidence that high-quality infant and toddler
child care supports development, whereas poor-quality care
undermines it.
Apply ■ Randi and Mike are worried that placing their
6-month-old baby, Lucinda, in child care may disrupt Lucinda’s
sense of security. List steps that Randi and Mike can take to
ensure that Lucinda’s experiences—at home and in child care—
support her emotional and social development.
Functions of Emotions
(p. 399)
Describe the functionalist approach to
emotional development.
The functionalist approach emphasizes that
the broad function of emotions is to energize
behavior aimed at attaining personal goals.
Emotions are central in cognitive processing,
social behavior, and physical health. Emotions
also contribute to the emergence of selfawareness, which makes possible new, selfevaluative emotions. Gradually, children gain
voluntary control over their emotions.
Describe the development of self-conscious
emotions, emotional self-regulation, and
conformity to emotional display rules.
Development of Emotional
Expression (p. 403)
How does the expression of basic emotions
change during infancy?
During the first six months, basic emotions
gradually become clear, well-organized signals.
The social smile appears between 6 and 10
weeks, laughter around 3 to 4 months. Happiness strengthens the parent–child bond and
reflects and promotes motor and cognitive
© R A DI U S I M A G E S / A L A M Y I M A G ES
During toddlerhood, self-awareness and adult
instruction provide the foundation for selfconscious emotions: guilt, shame, embarrassment, envy, and pride. With age, these
emotions become more internally governed.
Emotional self-regulation emerges as the
prefrontal cortex develops and as caregivers
sensitively assist infants in adjusting their
emotional reactions. With motor, cognitive,
and language development and warm parental guidance, children acquire more effective
self-regulatory strategies. Children who experience negative emotion intensely find it harder
to inhibit feelings and shift attention away
from disturbing events.
By age 10, most children can shift adaptively
between problem-centered and emotioncentered coping in regulating emotion. Emotionally well-regulated children are optimistic
and cooperative and have positive relationships with teachers and peers.
Young preschoolers start to conform to their
culture’s emotional display rules. From
infancy on, parents encourage children—
especially boys—to suppress negative
emotion. In middle childhood, children
understand the value of display rules in
ensuring social harmony.
Understanding and
Responding to the Emotions
of Others (p. 412)
Describe the development of empathy from
infancy into adolescence, noting individual
Anger and fear (especially in the form of
stranger anxiety) increase from the second
half of the first year into the second year,
as infants’ cognitive and motor capacities
improve. Newly mobile babies use the familiar caregiver as a secure base from which to
Around the middle of the first year, infants
respond to emotional expressions as organized, meaningful wholes. Beginning at 8 to
10 months, they engage in social referencing,
seeking emotional information from caregivers in uncertain situations. By the middle
of the second year, toddlers realize that
others’ emotional reactions may differ from
their own.
As toddlers develop self-awareness, they begin
to empathize. During childhood and adolescence, gains in language, emotional understanding, and perspective taking support
an increase in empathy, which motivates
prosocial, or altruistic, behavior.
Children who are sociable, assertive, and good
at regulating emotion are more likely than
poor emotion regulators to move from empathy to sympathetic, prosocial behavior. Warm
parents who encourage emotional expressiveness, show empathic concern, and help their
child regulate angry feelings promote development of empathy and sympathy. Angry, punitive parenting disrupts these capacities.
Temperament and
Development (p. 416)
What is temperament, and how is it measured?
Describe the development of emotional
understanding from infancy through
middle childhood.
Preschoolers understand many causes, consequences, and behavioral signs of emotion.
The capacity to consider conflicting cues when
explaining others’ feelings improves in middle
childhood, along with an appreciation of
mixed emotions. Warm parental conversations
about emotions and interactions with siblings
and friends, especially make-believe play, are
excellent contexts for learning about emotions.
Children vary widely in temperament—earlyappearing, stable individual differences in
reactivity and self-regulation. The New York
Longitudinal Study identified three patterns:
the easy child, the difficult child, and the
slow-to-warm-up child. The most influential
model of temperament, devised by Rothbart,
includes dimensions representing emotion,
attention, and action, along with effortful
control, the ability to regulate one’s reactivity.
Temperament is assessed through parental
reports, behavior ratings by others familiar
with the child, and laboratory observations.
Most neurobiological research has focused on
distinguishing inhibited, or shy, children from
uninhibited, or sociable, children.
CHAPTER 10 Emotional Development
Long-term prediction from early temperament
is best achieved after age 3, when styles of
responding are better established. Although
temperament is moderately heritable, both
shared environmental influences and nonshared influences—evident in parents’ tendency to emphasize each child’s unique
Children’s temperamental traits consistently
predict their cognitive and social functioning.
Effortful control is linked to generally favorable development and adjustment.
The goodness-of-fit model describes how a
child’s temperament and environment work
together to affect later development. Parenting practices that fit well with the child’s
temperament help children achieve more
adaptive functioning.
Development of
Attachment (p. 426)
What are the unique features of ethological
theory of attachment?
The most widely accepted perspective on
development of attachment —our strong
affectionate tie with special people in our
lives—is ethological theory, which recognizes the infant’s emotional tie to the caregiver as an evolved response that promotes
Around 6 to 8 months, separation anxiety
and use of the parent as a secure base indicate the existence of a true attachment bond.
Separation anxiety declines as representation
and language develop, enabling preschoolers
to better understand the parent’s coming and
going. From early caregiving experiences,
children construct an internal working
model that serves as a guide for all future
close relationships.
Describe how researchers measure the security
of attachment, and discuss the stability of
attachment patterns.
Researchers using the Strange Situation to
measure the quality of attachment between
ages 1 and 2 have identified four attachment
patterns: secure, avoidant, resistant, and
disorganized/disoriented. The Attachment
Q-Sort, based on home observations of children between ages 1 and 4 years, yields a
score ranging from high to low in security.
Securely attached babies in middle-SES families with favorable life conditions more often
maintain their attachment pattern than insecure babies. However, the disorganized/
disoriented pattern is highly stable. Cultural
conditions must be considered in interpreting
the meaning of attachment patterns.
Attachment security is influenced by early availability of a consistent caregiver, quality of caregiving, the fit between the baby’s temperament
and parenting practices, and family circumstances. Sensitive caregiving is moderately
related to secure attachment. In Western cultures, interactional synchrony characterizes
the experiences of securely attached babies.
© A F R I P I CS .CO M /A L A M Y
Discuss the roles of heredity and environment
in the stability of temperament, the
relationship of temperament to cognitive
and social functioning, and the goodness-offit model.
Discuss infants’ formation of multiple
attachments and the role of early
attachment quality in later development.
Infants develop strong affectionate ties to
fathers, who tend to engage in more exciting,
physical play with babies than do mothers.
Sensitive, stimulating play is a vital context in
which fathers and babies build secure attachments, predicting favorable emotional and
social adjustment.
Grandparents who serve as primary caregivers
for grandchildren in skipped-generation families forge significant attachment ties that help
protect children with troubled family lives
from adjustment problems.
Secure attachment in infancy launches the
parent–child relationship on a positive path.
But continuity of caregiving determines whether
attachment security is linked to later development. If caregiving improves, children
can recover from an insecure attachment
Attachment, Parental
Employment, and Child
Care (p. 439)
Discuss the implications of parental
employment and child care for attachment
security and early psychological
Parents’ internal working models are good
predictors of children’s attachment security,
but parents’ childhood experiences do not
transfer directly to quality of attachment with
their own children.
Research indicates that quality of care is
crucially important. Spending many hours
in mediocre to poor-quality child care, especially when combined with family risk factors, predicts insecure attachment and less
favorable cognitive, emotional, and social
When child-care settings meet professionally
accepted standards for developmentally
appropriate practice, children’s learning
opportunities and the warmth, sensitivity,
and stability of their caregivers are especially
high. Good child care can also serve as effective early intervention for children whose
development is at risk.
attachment (p. 426)
Attachment Q-Sort (p. 429)
avoidant attachment (p. 428)
basic emotions (p. 404)
developmentally appropriate practice (p. 441)
difficult child (p. 418)
disorganized/disoriented attachment (p. 429)
easy child (p. 418)
effortful control (p. 419)
emotion (p. 399)
emotion-centered coping (p. 410)
emotional display rules (p. 410)
emotional self-regulation (p. 407)
empathy (p. 414)
ethological theory of attachment (p. 426)
functionalist approach to emotion (p. 399)
goodness-of-fit model (p. 424)
inhibited, or shy, children (p. 419)
interactional synchrony (p. 432)
internal working model (p. 428)
problem-centered coping (p. 410)
prosocial, or altruistic, behavior (p. 415)
resistant attachment (p. 429)
secure attachment (p. 428)
secure base (p. 406)
self-conscious emotions (p. 406)
sensitive caregiving (p. 432)
separation anxiety (p. 427)
slow-to-warm-up child (p. 418)
social referencing (p. 412)
social smile (p. 404)
Strange Situation (p. 428)
stranger anxiety (p. 405)
sympathy (p. 415)
temperament (p. 416)
uninhibited, or sociable, children (p. 419)

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