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For infants, stress may be caught, not taught
Date:1/31/2014

New research shows that babies not only pick up on their mother's stress, they also show corresponding physiological changes.

"Our research shows that infants 'catch' and embody the physiological residue of their mothers' stressful experiences," says lead researcher Sara Waters, postdoctoral scholar at the University of California, San Francisco.

The findings are published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

"For many years now, social scientists have been interested in how emotions are transmitted from one person to another," says senior author Wendy Berry Mendes, the Sarlo/Ekman Associate Professor of Emotion at UCSF. Indeed, research in the social sciences has shown that emotions can be "contagious" and that there is emotional synchrony between romantic partners.

Waters, Mendes, and colleague Tessa West of New York University, wanted to extend this research by looking at emotional synchrony in the context of another close relationship: that between mother and child.

"Our earliest lessons about how to manage stress and strong negative emotions in our day-to-day lives occur in the parent-child relationship," Waters explains.

The researchers recruited 69 mothers and their 12- to 14-month-old infants to participate in the study. Researchers attached cardiovascular sensors to both mother and infant and took baseline recordings from each. After settling in, mother and infant were separated and the mother was assigned to give a 5-minute speech to two evaluators, followed by a 5-minute Q&A session. Some mothers received positive signals from the evaluators, including nodding, smiling, and leaning forward. Others received negative feedback, such as frowning, shaking their heads, and crossing their arms. A third group of mothers did not receive any feedback. Mother and infant were later reunited.

As predicted, mothers who received negative feedback repor
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Contact: Anna Mikulak
amikulak@psychologicalscience.org
202-293-9300
Association for Psychological Science
Source:Eurekalert

Page: 1 2

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