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Mothers’ electrophysiological, subjective, and observed emotional responding to infant crying: The role of secure base script knowledge

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 September 2014

Ashley M. Groh*
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Glenn I. Roisman
University of Minnesota
Katherine C. Haydon
Mount Holyoke College
Kelly Bost
University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign
Nancy McElwain
University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign
Leanna Garcia
University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign
Colleen Hester
Indiana University
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Ashley M. Groh, University of Missouri at Columbia, Department of Psychological Sciences, Columbia, MO 65211; E-mail:


This study examined the extent to which secure base script knowledge—reflected in the ability to generate narratives in which attachment-relevant events are encountered, a clear need for assistance is communicated, competent help is provided and accepted, and the problem is resolved—is associated with mothers’ electrophysiological, subjective, and observed emotional responses to an infant distress vocalization. While listening to an infant crying, mothers (N = 108, M age = 34 years) lower on secure base script knowledge exhibited smaller shifts in relative left (vs. right) frontal EEG activation from rest, reported smaller reductions in feelings of positive emotion from rest, and expressed greater levels of tension. Findings indicate that lower levels of secure base script knowledge are associated with an organization of emotional responding indicative of a less flexible and more emotionally restricted response to infant distress. Discussion focuses on the contribution of mothers’ attachment representations to their ability to effectively manage emotional responding to infant distress in a manner expected to support sensitive caregiving.

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Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2014 

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