The Regulation of Negative Reactivity in Infancy: Function and Development

Cynthia A. Stifter, Julia M. Braungart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

238 Scopus citations


This study examined the function and effectiveness of certain behaviors in regulating negative arousal in 5- and 10-month-old infants. Infants participated in an arm restraint procedure at 5 months (N = 87) and a toy removal task at 10 months (N = 82). Negative reactivity and regulatory behaviors-avoidance, orienting, self-comforting, and communicative behaviors (10-month only)-were coded and sectioned into 10-s epochs. Results showed that self-comforting behaviors were preferred at both 5 and 10 months of age. A comparison of changes in negative reactivity across every 2 consecutive 10-s epochs (decreasers vs. increasers vs. no change) revealed self-comforting behaviors to be exhibited most often during periods of decreasing negative arousal. Orienting behaviors also appeared to serve a regulatory function but in a more limited way. Finally, under these circumstances, avoidance and communicative behaviors were exhibited most often during increasing distress.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)448-455
Number of pages8
JournalDevelopmental psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1995

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Demography
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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