Emotional Development in Atypical Children

By Michael Lewis; Margaret Wolan Sullivan | Go to book overview

development such as social referencing and communication of emotion may be disrupted because of the greater difficulty in reading and responding to social behavior. Outcomes of development, such as attachment security, may be at risk. Development of inappropriate social behavior or behavior that is poorly matched to situational contexts may be more likely.

It is likely that caregivers who develop relationships with young developmentally delayed children acquire strategies that facilitate social interaction and compensate for the interactional limitations of the young delayed child. These strategies may be general response tendencies that facilitate, prolong, or improve interaction (much as parents of younger typically developing infants devise ways of compensating for their children's limitations) or they may be very particular strategies that develop out of specific experiences with a child who tends to respond in a certain manner. One such strategy might be to attempt to influence the child's behavior before there is an apparent action or reaction to a situation that arises. These "false alarms" might facilitate interaction and coping in some circumstances, or at least caregivers may believe (or hope) they do. Thus, for a child whose behavior is difficult to decipher, a bias to respond or intervene might improve more outcomes than a bias to withhold responding. That is, it is important to recognize the possible facilitating effects of some response biases. The development of caregiving behaviors and response tendencies must be followed in a longitudinal fashion for the nature of these response patterns to be fully understood.

The process of emotional communication involves at least two partners and the contributions of one partner serve as the interactional context for the behavior of the other. Thus, the behavior of both partners in their naturally occurring sequences must be considered in understanding social interactions. Knowledge of the processes discussed in this chapter is limited to a few behaviors, often studied in a noninteractive manner. Our discussion of these processes should be regarded as hypotheses for future research rather than as conclusions.


ACKNOWLEDGMENT

The research described in this chapter was supported by grant #BNS 9109634 from the National Science Foundation to the first author.


REFERENCES

Bell S. M., & Ainsworth M. D. S. ( 1972). "Infant crying and maternal responsiveness". Child Development, 43, 1171-1190.

Bornstein M. H., & Sigman M. D. ( 1986). "Continuity in mental development from infancy". Child Development, 57, 251-274.

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