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Effects of Nurturing and Non-nurturing Caregiving on Child Social Initiatives: An Experimental Investigation of Emotion as a Mediator of Social Behavior


Jan Karrass, Department of Psychology and Human Development, Vanderbilt University, Peabody College #512, 230 Appleton Place, Nashville, TN 37203-5701, USA. Email:


This study examined the effects of one unfamiliar adult's warm, responsive interactions or cold, aloof, unresponsive interactions on child emotion and subsequent social initiatives to a second adult. Participants were 32 41/2- to 51/2-year-old preschool children. Nurturing, responsive caregiving and non-nurturing, unresponsive caregiving were experimentally manipulated by experimenter facial and vocal affective expressions, positive versus negative statements to the child, and contingency of responding to the child's behavior. The effect of nurturance was examined on child emotions and social initiatives to another adult. Non-nurturing caregiving produced less expressed happiness and fewer subsequent social initiatives. Furthermore, child emotion was found to mediate partially the relation between nurturing caregiving and social initiatives, with children who experienced interactions with a non-nurturing caregiver expressing less happiness, which led to decreased social initiatives to a second adult.