Development and Psychopathology

Predicting the development of infant emotionality from maternal characteristics

a1 University of Giessen

Article author query
paulipott u   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
mertesacker b   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
beckmann d   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


Few studies have examined the associations between environmental conditions and developing infant emotionality or the differential susceptibility to those conditions. The present longitudinal study aims to make a contribution to close that gap. We analyzed whether positive emotionality, negative emotionality/irritability, and withdrawal/fear at the end of the first year of life are predictable from preceding caregiver's depression/anxiety, social support, and sensitivity in the interaction with the infant while controlling for antecedent states of emotionality. Furthermore, the question of whether associations between maternal characteristics and subsequent fear are stronger in the subgroup of infants high in irritability as opposed to those who are low in irritability was investigated. Subjects were 101 healthy firstborn infants and their primary caregivers. Assessments were conducted at infant ages of 4, 8, and 12 months. Depression, anxiety, and the social support of the caregiver were assessed by questionnaire. Sensitivity in the caregiver–infant interaction was assessed by behavior observations within the scope of home visits. Temperament characteristics were observed in standardized laboratory episodes. Whereas negative emotionality and withdrawal/fear were significantly predictable from the maternal characteristics, no predictability could be shown for developing positive emotionality. There were indications of a stronger association between the maternal characteristics and developing withdrawal/fear in irritable infants. a

c1 Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Dr. Ursula Pauli–Pott, Department of Medical Psychology, University of Giessen, Friedrichstraße 36, D-35392 Giessen, Germany; E-mail:


a The research for this article was supported by a grant from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) to U. Pauli–Pott and D. Beckmann (Grant PA 543/2-1, 2-2, 2-3). The sample was recruited from the maternity wards of two hospitals in Giessen. The authors thank PD Dr. C. Schubring, Head of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Evangelical Hospital, and Dr. A. Esch, Dr. K. D. Fleck, and Dr. H. J. Meier of St. Josef's Hospital, as well as the neonatal nurses in both hospitals for the friendly cooperation with which they supported the present study. Finally, special thanks are given to the families who participated in the study.