Genetic and Environmental Contributions to the Development of Positive Affect in Infancy

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Abstract

We studied developmental changes in infant positive affect from 6 to 12 months of age, a time marked by increasing use of positive vocalizations, laughter, and social smiles. We estimated the magnitude of genetic and environmental influences on observed and parent reported infant positive affect across development. Participants were drawn from a longitudinal twin study of infancy and toddlerhood (N = 536 twin pairs). Mothers and fathers reported on infant temperament and infants were videotaped during 2 observational tasks assessing positive affect. Parents also reported on their own affect and emotional expression within the family. Biometric models examined genetic and environmental influences that contribute to the developmental continuity of positive affect. Infant positive affect was associated with increased parent positive affect and family expressions of positive affect although not with family expressions of negative affect. In addition, the shared environment accounted for a large portion of variation in infant positive affect and continuity over time. These findings highlight the importance of the family environment in relation to infant positive emotional development.

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