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20-05-2017 | Uitgave 4/2017 Open Access

Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review 4/2017

Exposure to Parents’ Negative Emotions as a Developmental Pathway to the Family Aggregation of Depression and Anxiety in the First Year of Life

Tijdschrift:
Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review > Uitgave 4/2017
Auteurs:
Evin Aktar, Susan M. Bögels

Abstract

Depression and anxiety load in families. In the present study, we focus on exposure to parental negative emotions in first postnatal year as a developmental pathway to early parent-to-child transmission of depression and anxiety. We provide an overview of the little research available on the links between infants’ exposure to negative emotion and infants’ emotional development in this developmentally sensitive period, and highlight priorities for future research. To address continuity between normative and maladaptive development, we discuss exposure to parental negative emotions in infants of parents with as well as without depression and/or anxiety diagnoses. We focus on infants’ emotional expressions in everyday parent–infant interactions, and on infants’ attention to negative facial expressions as early indices of emotional development. Available evidence suggests that infants’ emotional expressions echo parents’ expressions and reactions in everyday interactions. In turn, infants exposed more to negative emotions from the parent seem to attend less to negative emotions in others’ facial expressions. The links between exposure to parental negative emotion and development hold similarly in infants of parents with and without depression and/or anxiety diagnoses. Given its potential links to infants’ emotional development, and to later psychological outcomes in children of parents with depression and anxiety, we conclude that early exposure to parental negative emotions is an important developmental mechanism that awaits further research. Longitudinal designs that incorporate the study of early exposure to parents’ negative emotion, socio-emotional development in infancy, and later psychological functioning while considering other genetic and biological vulnerabilities should be prioritized in future research.

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