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How do parents' depression and anxiety, and infants' negative temperament relate to parent–infant face-to-face interactions?

  • Evin Aktar (a1), Cristina Colonnesi (a1), Wieke de Vente (a1), Mirjana Majdandžić (a1) and Susan M. Bögels (a1)...

The present study investigated the associations of mothers' and fathers' lifetime depression and anxiety symptoms, and of infants' negative temperament with parents' and infants' gaze, facial expressions of emotion, and synchrony. We observed infants' (age between 3.5 and 5.5 months, N = 101) and parents' gaze and facial expressions during 4-min naturalistic face-to-face interactions. Parents' lifetime symptoms of depression and anxiety were assessed with clinical interviews, and infants' negative temperament was measured with standardized observations. Parents with more depressive symptoms and their infants expressed less positive and more neutral affect. Parents' lifetime anxiety symptoms were not significantly related to parents' expressions of affect, while they were linked to longer durations of gaze to parent, and to more positive and negative affect in infants. Parents' lifetime depression or anxiety was not related to synchrony. Infants' temperament did not predict infants' or parents' interactive behavior. The study reveals that more depression symptoms in parents are linked to more neutral affect from parents and from infants during face-to-face interactions, while parents' anxiety symptoms are related to more attention to parent and less neutral affect from infants (but not from parents).

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Address correspondence and reprint request to: Evin Aktar, Amsterdam Brain and Cognition, Research Institute of Child Development and Education, University of Amsterdam, Nieuwe Achtergracht 127, Amsterdam 1018 WS, The Netherlands: E-mail:
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The contribution of Evin Aktar was supported by the Brain and Cognition Research Priority Program. The contributions of Cristina Colonnesi, Wieke de Vente, Mirjana Majdandžić, and Susan M. Bögels were supported by Innovation Research VICI NWO Grant 453-09-001 (to S.M.B.). The authors have no conflict of interests.

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