Maternal Personality Predicts Infant Regulation of Fear and Frustration

Open Access
Phillips, Jennifer Julia
Area of Honors:
Bachelor of Science
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Kristin Ann Buss, Thesis Supervisor
  • Kenneth Levy, Honors Advisor
  • Koraly Elisa Perez-Edgar, Faculty Reader
  • Emotion Regulation
  • Maternal Factors
  • Personality
  • Developmental Psychopathology
  • Respiratory Sinus Arrhythmia
  • Psychobiology
Difficulty with emotion regulation early in life can lead to poor developmental outcomes, such as childhood psychopathology. Therefore, it is important to identify factors associated with emotion regulation deficits earlier, rather than later. Research has indicated that infant emotion regulation develops within the context of the mother-infant attachment relationship, so factors, such as maternal personality that impact the security of this relationship may influence adaptive or maladaptive emotion regulation in infants. In light of this, the present study aimed to further explore how dysfunctional personality traits in mothers relates to infant regulation of fear and frustration. Participants were recruited from a large, ongoing longitudinal study. Four personality constructs—negative affect, neuroticism, psychoticism, and extraversion—were measured in mothers via self-reported questionnaire data. Infant emotion regulation was assessed by using respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) during tasks designed to evoke fear and frustration when infants were 8-months- and 12-months-old. Results showed that infant RSA during fear-evoking tasks was positively associated with maternal irritability and psychoticism was augmented, suggesting poor regulation. Further, during fear-evoking tasks, infant RSA was negatively associated with maternal irritability and psychoticism, suggesting better regulation.