Academic journal article International Journal of Psychology and Psychological Therapy

Two Temperamental Characteristics, Approach and Inhibition/fear, and Saccadic Responses in Infancy

Academic journal article International Journal of Psychology and Psychological Therapy

Two Temperamental Characteristics, Approach and Inhibition/fear, and Saccadic Responses in Infancy

Article excerpt

From birth, each infant has its own distinct characteristics and disposition that can be discerned and reported by parents as individual differences in temperament. Studies have found clear differences in extraversion or surgency in 2- to 4-month-old infants. Positive affect/surgency in infancy is reportedly predictive of extravert tendencies in seven-year-olds (Rothbart, Derryberry, & Hershey, 2000).

Later in the first year, immediate approach movements were replaced by periods of hesitation that signify a more or less prolonged reluctance to make contact with unfamiliar stimuli (Schaffer, Greenwood, & Parry, 1972). This relative increase in the elapsed time before contact might mark the beginning of wariness or fear response. The onset of wariness is considered to reflect the growing influence of the visual system and memory store in the processing familiarity. Fear-related inhibition reportedly shows at least a moderate continuity across childhood and is, to a certain extent, also related to certain aspects of adult personality (Kagan & Fox, 2006).

A theoretical single dimension extends from a rapid to a slower approach to inhibition or withdrawal as described in the approach-withdrawal dimension of Thomas and Chess (1977). However, based on Gray's constructs of behavioral inhibition and activation systems (BIS and BAS) (Gray, 1982), Rothbart posited two theoretical dimensions of behavior variability. One is the child's approach tendency, while the other is the inhibition of approaching or behavioral inhibition. In a longitudinal sample of infants (Rothbart, 1988) at 6.5 months, the speed of reaching out for two toys under high- and low-intensity/novelty conditions is considered to be primarily under the control of the approach component. Moreover, infants who approached sooner tended to generally express more positive affect. Near the end of the first year, the latency of an onset of approach was slower for high-novelty/intensity toys than for familiar low-intensity toys, with infants grasping the former more slowly, and with greater hesitation.

Regarding the independence of these two temperamental dimensions, Putnum and Stifter (2005) found that in toddlers a failure to approach together with negative affect might indicate strong activity of the inhibition system (BIS), whereas a nonapproach without fearful negativity could indicate a low-approach tendency. Likewise, an approach combined with positive affect could be a sign of an overactive behavioral activation system (BAS), whereas an approach in the absence of positivity might indicate a mild approach tendency and low inhibition. As a result of confirmatory factor analysis, they indicated a 3-dimensional model of positivity, negativity, and behavioral approach-inhibition. Moreover, among a sample of preschool-age children (mean age: 3.57±.3), Laptook et al. (2008) reported that a low approach which characterizes behavior inhibition is context-dependent and limited to novel situations, while such an approach with low positive affect is evident across most contexts regardless of the level of familiarity

In neuroscience, a broad approach dimension linked to positive affect could be related to the general function of dopamine activity (Panksepp, 1998). A likely neural substrate for fear is the amygdala (Ledoux, 1990), a structure possibly linked to the inhibition of approach (Kagan & Fox, 2006). Moreover, in recent behavioral genetic studies, an association between dopamine D4 receptor (DRD4) gene and the personality trait of novelty seeking (extraversion) (Golimbet, Alfimova, Gritsenko, & Ebstein, 2007), and one between a serotonin transporter promoter region polymorphism (5-HTTLPR) and fear and anxiety-related traits (Hayden et al., 2007) were reported. Furthermore, the interaction between alleles of the DRD4 and 5HTTLPR genes was reported in studies of both adults and infants (Lakatos et al., 2003). Since negative emotionality might have beneficial effects during tasks requiring controlled processing (Strobel et al. …

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