Bornstein, Putnick, and Hendricks
Distress emotions in very young children are manifest in vocal, facial, and bodily cues. Moreover, children with different developmental conditions (i.e. Autistic Disorder- AD, Developmental Delay- DD, Typically Developing- TD) appear to manifest their distress emotions via different channels. To decompose channel of emotional distress display by group, we conducted a study in which video clips of crying of 18 children 18 months of age belonging to three groups (AD, DD, TD) were modified to isolate vocal, facial, or bodily cues, and 42 female adults were asked to judge the distress and typicality (expected normality) of the different stimuli. We find variation in adult judgments of distress and typicality by child group (AD, DD, TD) and by isolated cues (vocal, facial, or body). Although there is some overlap between responses to episodes of crying of children with AD and those with DD, the different cues of crying of children with AD tend to be considered more atypical and distressed than those of the other two groups (DD and TD). Early assessment of different cues of the expression of distress, and more generally of emotional expressivity in a child, may provide useful information for pediatricians and practitioners who are in contact with young children and must make clinical screening decisions. The findings also alert parents of children with AD to important aspects of their cries.
We initiated a prospective study of very young children with cancer in comparison with matched healthy children to investigate neurodevelopmental consequences of non-CNS cancers and treatment. Children (≤ 42 months) with non-CNS cancers and matched controls underwent an identical age-appropriate neuropsychological test battery. Children with cancer manifested deficits compared to healthy controls in motor, mental, and language development, but were similar to controls in cognitive representational abilities and emotional relationships in interaction with their mothers. Better physician-rated health status at diagnosis and mother-rated behavioral status 1 month prior to assessment were associated with better motor and mental performance in the cancer group. This study identifies deficits as well as spared functions in children with non-CNS cancers; the results suggest ways parents and healthcare professionals may plan specific remediations to enhance quality of life in young cancer survivors.
Most studies of families of children with disabilities tend to present mothers as a homogeneous group with a distinct interaction style, rather than as individuals whose styles vary from those with normally developing children. We investigated the influence of the loss of a major communication channel (deafness) on mother-child interaction and on children's developing language and play performance during the second year of life. Deafness in a family has a profound impact on the child's language-learning environment, and this impact will be mediated by whether the parents or child or both are deaf. For a deaf child, hearing and deaf parents provide significantly different language-learning opportunities for example, and by the same token the language-learning environments provided by deaf parents of hearing and deaf children also differ. We collected data on four groups: hearing mothers with hearing toddlers; hearing mothers with deaf toddlers; deaf mothers with hearing toddlers; and deaf mothers with deaf toddlers. The children were 20 months of age, and the groups were matched for socioeconomic status, parity, and gender, with deafness being the major disability involved. Three measures of each child's language competency were obtained. Two of the three language measures were evaluated by a researcher experienced in dealing with deaf children; the third, a word count, was reported by mothers. All three exhibited similar patterns. The two groups of hearing children had the highest means and were nearly indistinguishable. The deaf children of hearing mothers had the lowest mean, and the deaf children of deaf mothers fell close to them. Deaf children's language delays, unlike those of most other groups of children with disabilities, usually occur because of lack of access to a language model and are not necessarily associated with neurological or cognitive developmental difficulties. Not surprising, deaf children with hearing parents had high rates of language delays and deficiencies. By contrast, no overall group differences emerged for another representational domain, symbolic play. This comparison shows that language variation among children is associated with variation in parent language, whereas play sophistication is not. Continuing analyses of the data from these four groups concern themselves with parenting beliefs and behaviors, the daily activities of these different groups of children, emotional availability of parents and children in these different groups to one another, and the like.
Much of the data found in developmental science carry a hierarchical structure. A hierarchical data set consists of units that are grouped at different levels. A familiar example of hierarchically structured data is repeated measures nested within individuals. The measurement occasions are the level-1 units in a 2-level structure where the individuals are the level-2 units. We constructed a data set that began before birth and concluded after birth in terms of such a hierarchical structure. Our sample consisted of low-risk pregnant women and their singleton fetuses. Fetuses were tested at 24, 30, and 36 weeks gestational age, when we collected measures of heart rate and heart rate variability. In addition, we collected background information of each dyad, from which we use family SES. Two multilevel models were constructed for each fetal measure by varying the level 2 model in each model set: In the first model set, an unconditional level 2 model represented the mean of the fetal measure at 24 weeks and the fetal growth trajectory not controlling for any sociodemographic measure; in the second model set, a conditional level 2 model represented the mean of the fetal measure at 24 weeks and the fetal growth trajectory controlling for family SES. On the average, fetuses had a heart rate of 144.89 bpm at 24 weeks which declined .56 bpm each week from 24 to 36 weeks gestation. Both parameters differed significantly from zero. The average heart rate variability at 24 weeks gestation was 3.95 bpm which increased .15 bpm each week from 24 to 36 weeks gestation. Both parameters differed significantly from zero. Fetuses varied significantly in their heart rate at 24 weeks; fetuses did not vary in their heart rate decline. For heart rate variability, fetuses varied significantly not only in initial status at 24 weeks, but also in rates of change from 24 to 36 week gestation. The results indicated that the reliability estimate was best for estimating slope in heart rate variability and worst for estimating slope in heart rate. The reason for the lack of reliability in estimating heart rate slope is that the fetuses are relatively homogeneous with respect to their linear trend in heart rate change. However, all four of the reliability estimates were above the .05 criterion for treating the parameter estimates as fixed or nonrandomly varying. Family SES did not improve the prediction of heart rate variability at 24 weeks gestation: Changes in mean heart rate variability at 24 weeks for a unit change in the mean SES did not differ significantly from zero. Family SES contributed to the explanation of the growth trajectory of heart rate variability.
Fetal cardiac function was measured at 24, 30, and 36 weeks gestation and quantified in terms of heart rate, variability, and episodic accelerations. Children's representational capacity was evaluated at 27 months in terms of language and play. 30- and 36-week-old fetuses that displayed greater heart-rate variability and more episodic accelerations, and fetuses that exhibited a more precipitous increase in heart-rate variability and acceleration over gestation, achieved higher levels of language competence. 36-week-old fetuses with higher heart-rate variability and accelerations, and steeper growth trajectories over gestation, achieved higher levels of symbolic play. Cardiac patterning during gestation may reflect an underlying neural substrate that persists through early childhood: Individual variation in rate of development could be stable, or efficient cardiac function could positively influence the underlying neural substrate to enhance cognitive performance.
Five-month-old infants of clinically depressed and nondepressed mothers were familiarized to a wholly novel object and afterward tested for their discrimination of the same object presented in the familiar and in a novel perspective. Infants in both groups were adequately familiarized, but infants of clinically depressed mothers failed to discriminate between novel and familiar views of the object, whereas infants of nondepressed mothers successfully discriminated. The difference in discrimination between infants of depressed and nondepressed mothers is discussed in light of infants’ differential object processing and maternal sociodemographics, mind-mindedness, depression, stress, and interaction styles that may moderate opportunities for infants to learn about their world or influence the development of their perceptuocognitive capacities.
To evaluate the effects of dietary intake of the long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids arachidonic acid (AA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) on multiple indices of infant growth and development, a double-masked, randomized, parallel trial was conducted with term infants fed formulas with or without AA+DHA for 1 year. Reference groups of breastfed infants weaned to formulas with and without AA+DHA were also studied. The main study outcomes were AA and DHA levels in plasma and red blood cells, and multiple measures of infant development at multiple ages from birth to 14 months: growth, visual acuity, information processing, general development, language, and temperament. AA and DHA levels in plasma and red cells were higher in AA+DHA supplemented groups than in the control formula group and comparable to those in reference groups. No developmental test results distinguished these groups. Expected differences in family demographics associated with breastfeeding were found, but no advantages to breastfeeding on any of the developmental outcomes were demonstrated. These findings do not support adding AA+DHA to formulas containing 10% energy as linoleic acid and 1% energy as a-linolenic acid to enhance growth, visual acuity, information processing, general development, language, or temperament in healthy, term infants over the first year after birth.
Prenatal Exposure to Cocaine
Cocaine is a teratologic agent with potentially profound effects on the child's immediate parental and more global social environment, as well as the child's own development. The problem of prenatally cocaine-exposed infants is not a small one. National estimates suggest that 10 to 20% of all infants in the United States are exposed to cocaine prenatally, and in many inner-city populations nearly 50% of women giving birth report or test positive for cocaine use at the time of delivery. Prenatal cocaine exposure does not exert a singular effect on any one developmental function, nor does any single effect express itself in all infants. Some prenatally cocaine exposed children develop adaptively and along essentially normal trajectories. For other children and parents, prenatal cocaine exposure presents risks for multiple problems, such as involvement in violence and crime, homelessness, poor school performance as well as early school drop-out, and multi-generational drug abuse. These problems trap both parent and child in poverty and discord. Popular notions about the lifestyle of cocaine abuse have always abounded in stereotypes. How drug use in the "cocaine culture" affects parenting has not been extensively studied, however. Parents who are using cocaine have problems caring for their children as indicated in part by the increased incidence of physical abuse and neglect in such families, and by the proportionately higher-than-national-average numbers of children from substance abusing families who are in foster or other types of care placements. Cocaine might affect parenting on at least two levels. One reflects pre- and comorbid psychiatric factors associated with cocaine use which may, in turn, be associated with diminished parenting; the other describes more specific effects of cocaine on neuropsychological functions involved in interpersonal interactions.
Based on the presence or absence of cocaine and other drug use, we compared cocaine-using mothers and their infants at 3 and 6 months to non-cocaine but other-drug-using mothers and mothers who used no drugs during their pregnancy on face-to-face interactions for 16 measures of maternal and infant interactive behaviors. A principal component of 7 behaviors formed a measure of maternal attentiveness; a principal component of 5 behaviors formed a measure of mother-infant dyadic organization; and a principal component of 4 behaviors formed a measure of infant readiness to interact. A measure of maternal interruption was computed as the mean standard score of 3 additional interruptive behaviors. By 6 months, the infants of cocaine-using mothers were less interactive than either the infants of non-cocaine-using or non-drug-using mothers. At 3 and 6 months, cocaine-using mothers were less attentive to interactions, and cocaine-using mothers and their infants engaged in fewer dyadic interactions than either non-cocaine or non-drug-using mothers. Compared to 3 months, cocaine-using mothers at 6 months also more frequently interrupted interactions by looking away, redirecting the infant, or withdrawing. Clearly, the drug subculture promotes alterations in cocaine-using mothers' attentiveness to interactions and increased disruptive behaviors during interactions with infants when compared to non-cocaine and non-drug-using mothers and their infants.
In a prospective longitudinal study, vagal tone and heart period were measured twice, at 2 months and at 5 years, in both children and their mothers to evaluate and compare the development of the vagal system and its regulatory capacity at rest and during environmental task. Child baseline vagal tone and heart period were discontinuous; mother baseline vagal tone was discontinuous, but heart period was continuous. Group mean baseline-to-task change in vagal tone and heart period were continuous in both children and mothers. Children reached adult levels of baseline vagal tone by 5 years, and children and their mothers did not differ in baseline-to-task change in vagal tone or heart period. Baseline vagal tone tended to be stable, but baseline heart period and baseline-to-task change in vagal tone and heart period were unstable in children; both were stable in mothers. Baseline-to-task change in vagal tone showed consistent child-mother concordance. A second study investigated the role of cardiac vagal tone in information processing (habituation) in infants. Nucleus ambiguus vagal tone was used to index cardiac vagal tone. Physiological self-regulation was operationalized as the change in Vna from a baseline period of measurement to habituation. Decreases in Vna consistently related to habituation efficiency, operationalized as accumulated looking time (ALT), in all infants twice at 2 months and twice at 5 months; however, this relation was accounted for by infants who met an habituation criterion on each task. Among habituators, shorter lookers also had greater Vna suppression during habituation. Within-age and between-age suppression of vagal tone predicted ALT, but ALT did not predict suppression of vagal tone. Physiological self-regulation provided by the vagal system appears to play a role in information processing in infancy as indexed by habituation.