The first half-year of infancy represents a salient time in which emotion expression assumes a more psychological character as opposed to a predominantly physiological one. Although previous research has demonstrated the relations between early parenting and later emotional competencies, there has been less of a focus on differentiating positive and negative emotion expression across the early infancy period. Thus, the current study investigates the growth of positive and negative emotion expression across early infancy in a low-income, Mexican-American sample, and examines the development of emotion expression as a function of early maternal emotion socialization and prenatal stress. Participants included 322 mothers and their infants. Data were collected in participants' homes prenatally and when the infants were 12-, 18-, and 24-weeks old. Mothers were asked to interact with their infants in a semi-structured teaching task, and video-taped interactions of mother and infant behaviors were then coded. Data for mothers was collected at the prenatal and 12-week visits and data for infants was collected at the 12-, 18-, and 24-week visits. Prenatal stress was measured via two questionnaires (Daily Hassles Questionnaire and Perceived Stress Scale). Maternal socialization at 12 weeks was represented as a composite of four observational codes from the Coding Interactive Behavior coding system. Infant emotion expression was also globally rated across the 5-minute teaching task. Findings suggest that the normative development of emotion expression across early infancy is complex. Positive emotion expression may increase across the early infancy period whereas negative emotion expression decreases. Further, at 12 weeks, greater maternal emotion socialization relates to more infant positivity and less negativity, in line with current conceptualization of parenting. However, across time, greater early socialization predicted decreased positivity and was unrelated to negative emotion expression. Findings also suggest that prenatal stress does not relate to socialization efforts or to infant emotion expression. A better understanding of the nuanced development of positive and negative emotion development as a function of early parenting may have implications for early intervention and prevention in this high-risk population.
- The Influence of maternal prenatal stress and emotion socialization on infant emotion expression: differentiating positive and negative trajectories