Maternal sensitivity: Influences on the resolution of jealousy protest
Harris, Jennifer K.
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This study aimed to examine infant emotion regulation as a feature of jealousy protest (JP). Previous work in which recovery from differential treatment (DT) was found augmented among infants of mothers who had demonstrated greater sensitivity during floor play called for further and more refined investigative attention to the contribution of maternal sensitivity. Toward that aim, regulation of JP was explored in relation to maternal interaction behaviors that communicate socio-affective and goal-oriented meaning and entail intrusiveness, at two time points, before and following DT. N=84 mother-infant dyads were observed when infants were 45 weeks of age in three interaction episodes, baseline floor play (Bl), DT, and reunion floor play (Re). Maternal behavior was coded for Social and Goal-oriented responses, and Intrusiveness. Infants’ behavior was coded for Distress. Evidence of regulation of JP was construed on the basis of decline in Distress following DT during Re. Findings revealed that Re was associated with an increase in Social responses and a decrease in Goal-oriented responses as mothers’ reacted to carry-over of infant Distress following DT through the display of increased warmth. Infants’ greater decline in Distress was found associated with greater Social responses during both Bl and Re. In contrast, decline in Distress was reduced among infants of mothers who displayed greater Intrusiveness during both Bl and Re. Findings on Goal-oriented responses were nonsignificant. In sum, findings of this study revealed that infant distress following DT was reduced among infants of mothers who displayed greater warmth and less intrusiveness before and after DT. These findings highlight the importance of maternal behavior that reflects affection in both challenging and non-challenging situations toward the infants’ capacity to recover from DT.