Maternal Anxiety and ERP Responses to Happy, Angry, and Fearful Faces in 7-Month- Olds
One of the strongest determinants of infant cognitive development, is input from caregivers. Infants are able to discriminate between negative and positive emotional cues and use facial cues to disambiguate uncertain situations and regulate their behavior (Grossman et al., 2007). This research examined the effects of maternal anxiety on infants’ responsivity to various facial expressions. Mothers completed the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory to measure their holistic anxiety levels. The emotional processing of 7-month-old infants (M=7.35, SD=0.242, n=29) was measured using electroencephalography (EEG), while infants viewed happy, fearful, and angry facial expressions. The neural responses were measured through the Nc component of event-related potentials (ERPs). We found that greater maternal anxiety was associated with greater difference in infants’ Nc amplitudes to fearful faces compared to happy faces ( = 0.207, F(1,27) = 7.057, p < 0.05). The results suggest the relevance of maternal psychopathology in infants’ understanding and processing of social cues.