The Infant Simulator Paradigm with Non-Parents: Attitudes, Physiology, and Observed Caregiving

  • Megan M. Pruitt
  • Erin R. McKay
  • Gabriela Lelakowska
  • Naomi V. EkasEmail author
Original Paper



This study aimed to identify factors, namely adult attachment and childhood parenting experiences, to investigate individual differences in parenting behavior using an infant simulator paradigm.


One hundred and eighteen college-aged females completed questionnaires about adult attachment, how their parents responded to negative emotions, and attitudes about infant crying. Participants then interacted with a distressed infant simulator, while their behavior with the simulator and physiology were recorded.


Attachment avoidance was associated with less infant-oriented beliefs and more parent-oriented beliefs about infant crying. Adult attachment avoidance was also associated with greater physiological reactivity during the task, more physiological regulation, and increased caregiving behaviors. Attachment anxiety was related to a decrease in heart rate during the task. Remembered nonsupportive parental reactions were associated with more parent-oriented beliefs about infant crying as well as more caregiving during the task. However, caregiving quality was not related to any variables of interest in the study.


Implications addressing potential intervention programs using the infant simulator and targeting at-risk populations to understand individual differences in parenting are discussed.


Infant simulator Adult attachment Emotion socialization Parenting Non-parents 


Author Contributions

MP: assisted with study design and execution, assisted with data analysis, and wrote the paper. EM: assisted with study design and execution, data analysis, and writing of manuscript. GL: assisted with behavioral coding. NE: assisted with study design and execution, assisted with data analysis, collaborated in the writing and editing of the manuscript.


This research was supported by the Science and Engineering Research Center, Texas Christian University.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the Texas Christian University institutional research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyTexas Christian UniversityFort WorthUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyNorthern Illinois UniversityDeKalbUSA

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