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Child Dev. 2005 Mar-Apr;76(2):518-30.

Infant emotional and cortisol responses to goal blockage.

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Institute for the Study of Child Development, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Brunswick, NJ 08903-0019, USA. <>


This study examined the relation of infant emotional responses of anger and sadness to cortisol response in 2 goal blockage situations. One goal blockage with 4-month-old infants (N = 56) involved a contingency learning procedure where infants' learned response was no longer effective in reinstating an event. The other goal blockage with 6-month-old infants (N = 84) involved the still face procedure where infants' reactions to their mothers' lack of responsivity were not effective in reestablishing interaction. For both blockages, sadness was related to cortisol response, though anger was not--the greater the sadness, the higher the cortisol response. This differential relation is consistent with other evidence indicating the more positive role of anger as opposed to sadness in overcoming an obstacle.

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