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Child Dev. 1998 Apr;69(2):359-74.

Fear and anger regulation in infancy: effects on the temporal dynamics of affective expression.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Wisconsin--Madison 53706, USA. kabuss@students.wisc.edu


Emotion regulation has been conceptualized as the extrinsic and intrinsic processes responsible for monitoring, facilitating, and inhibiting heightened levels of positive and negative affect. Regulation of distress is related to the use of certain behavioral strategies. Our study examined whether putative regulatory behaviors widely assumed to be conceptually associated with these strategies are actually empirically associated with the changes in fearful and angry distress in 6-, 12-, and 18-month-old infants. Our key finding was that the use of some putative regulatory behaviors (e.g., distraction and approach) reduced the observable intensity of anger but were less effective in reducing the intensity of fear. The results suggest (1) caution in assuming that postulated regulatory behaviors actually have general distress-reducing effects and (2) the likelihood that "distress" is too global a construct for research on emotion regulation.

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