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The Sydney Family Development Project: A Longitudinal Study of Children's Emotional Development in the First Three Years of Life

  • Judy A. Ungerer (a1), Brent Waters (a1), Bryanne Barnett (a1), Robyn Dolby (a1), Rachelle Bouffard (a1) and Norm Kelk (a1)...


A longitudinal study of early emotional development is in progress in Sydney, and preliminary results from the first three years of the study are reported. Antenatal assessment of parental personality, interpersonal relationships, and parental expectations identified different habitual ways of managing negative affect. Thus far, postnatal assessment of a subsample of the infants has differentiated emotion regulation at 4 months and empathy and mother-infant attachment quality at 12 months. Coping styles to manage emotionallly distressing or challenging situations showed individual differerences. Some 4-month-old infants used an immature strategy to cope with the stress of a non-responsive mother in the Still-Face Procedure, withdrawing and engaging in arousal-containing behaviours. At 12 months of age, these infants also tended to respond with immature personal distress reactions to a videotape of a distressed peer and to demonstrate insecure attachment. Assessment of coping behaviour at 30 months in a semistructured play situation aims to determine whether earlier continuity of withdrawal and emotionall containment versus engagement and emotional coping is maintained.


Corresponding author

School of Behavioural Sciences, Macquarie University, N.S.W. 2109


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