When Infants Look to Their Parents: II. Twelve-Month-Olds' Response to Conflicting Parental Emotional Signals.

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Abstract

66 12-months-olds were seen in a laboratory procedure in which they were given happy, fearful, and conflicting emotional signals by their mothers and fathers with reference to 5 unusual toy stimuli. Measures included: positive and negative affect, affect lability, and approach and proximity behavior toward the toy. Infants did not “select” a signal on the basis of a maternal or paternal primacy in emotional referencing, but responded to both signals and experienced conflict. They showed increased negative affect and decreased positive affect and toy exploration with conflicting signals compared with both happy and with fearful signals alone. Greater levels of lability were not found with conflicting signals. Marked differences among infants in capacity and style of coping with conflict were observed, as were a variety of specific conflict responses, such as agitated sucking, rocking, avoidance, extreme motor inhibition, aimless or disoriented behavior, and transient, unintegrated affect expressions.

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