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

Abstract

Objectives

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.

Methods

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.

Results

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.

Conclusions

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

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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.

Funding

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

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Correspondence to Naomi V. Ekas.

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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.

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Pruitt, M.M., McKay, E.R., Lelakowska, G. et al. The Infant Simulator Paradigm with Non-Parents: Attitudes, Physiology, and Observed Caregiving. J Child Fam Stud 29, 2515–2529 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-019-01643-x

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Keywords

  • Infant simulator
  • Adult attachment
  • Emotion socialization
  • Parenting
  • Non-parents