This study examined the predictive significance of maternal sensitivity in early childhood for electrophysiological responding to and cognitive appraisals of infant crying at midlife in a sample of 73 adults (age = 39 years; 43 females; 58 parents) from the Minnesota Longitudinal Study of Risk and Adaptation. When listening to an infant crying, both parents and nonparents who had experienced higher levels of maternal sensitivity in early childhood (between 3 and 42 months of age) exhibited larger changes from rest toward greater relative left (vs. right) frontal EEG activation, reflecting an approach-oriented response to distress. Parents who had experienced greater maternal sensitivity in early childhood also made fewer negative causal attributions about the infant's crying; the association between sensitivity and attributions for infant crying was nonsignificant for nonparents. The current findings demonstrate that experiencing maternal sensitivity during the first 31/2 years of life has long-term predictive significance for adults' processing of infant distress signals more than three decades later.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This research was support by a National Institute on Aging grant (R01AG039453) awarded to Jeffry A. Simpson, which supported the most recent assessments of the Minnesota Longitudinal Study of Risk and Adaptation, and by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Postdoctoral Fellowship (756-2014-0109) awarded to Jodi Martin.
© 2018 American Psychological Association.
- Childhood development
- Cognitive appraisal
- Infant distress
- Parental sensitivity