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Spangler, Gottfried and Schieche, Michael (1998): Emotional and Adrenocortical Responses of Infants to the Strange Situation: The Differential Function of Emotional Expression. In: International Journal of Behavioral Development, Vol. 22, No. 4: pp. 681-706 [PDF, 258kB]


The aim of the study was to investigate biobehavioural organisation in infants with different qualities of attachment. Quality of attachment (security and disorganisation), emotional expression, and adrenocortical stress reactivity were investigated in a sample of 106 infants observed during Ainsworth’s Strange Situation at the age of 12 months. In addition, behavioural inhibition was assessed from maternal reports. As expected, securely attached infants did not show an adrenocortical response. Regarding the traditionally defined insecurely attached groups, adrenocortical activation during the strange situation was found for the ambivalent group, but not for the avoidant one. Previous ndings of increased adrenocortical activity in disorganised infants could not be replicated. In line with previous ndings, adrenocortical activation was most prominent in insecure infants with high behavioural inhibition indicating the function of a secure attachment relationship as a social buffer against less adaptive temperamental dispositions. Additional analyses indicated that adrenocortical reactivity and behavioural distress were not based on common activation processes. Biobehavioural associations within the different attachment groups suggest that biobehavioural processes in securely attached infants may be different from those in insecurely attached and disorganised groups. Whereas a coping model may be applied to describe the biobehavioural organisation of secure infants, an arousal model explanation may be more appropriate for the other groups.

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