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Child Dev. 1980 Mar;51(1):238-41.

Child abusers' responses to infant smiles and cries.


14 child abusers and a matched group of non-abusers watched videotapes of crying and smiling infants. Their psychophysiological responses were monitored throughout the session. After each videotape, the subjects described their emotional responses on a mood adjective checklist. The crying infant elicited heart-rate acceleration and increases in skin conductance and diastolic blood pressure from both groups, although the abusers experienced greater increases in heart rate and reported more aversion and less sympathy. Like other parents tested in this paradigm, the nonabusers responded to the smiling infant with no change in or declines in physiological activation. The abusers, however, responded to the smile and cry stimuli similarly.

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