Distress Regulation in Infancy: Attachment and Temperament in the Context of Acute Pain

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The relationship between attachment, temperamental fear, and pain-related distress was examined in a sample of 130 caregiver-infant dyads to explore the differential susceptibility hypothesis.


Infant distress was measured during routine immunization at 12 months, and attachment and temperamental fear were measured at 12 to 18 months (meanage = 13.74, SD = 1.35) using the Strange Situation Procedure and parent-rated Infant Behavior Questionnaire—Revised, respectively.


Immediately before immunization, avoidant infants exhibited significantly less distress than secure infants. Temperamental fear moderated the relationship between attachment and regulation; under conditions of high temperamental fear, avoidant infants regulated distress more slowly than secure infants, whereas under conditions of low temperamental fear, secure infants regulated distress more slowly than avoidant and disorganized infants.


The findings suggest that attachment interacts with extremes in temperamental fear to produce differences in the regulation of distress. The results partially support the differential susceptibility hypothesis.

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