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Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

, Volume 36, Issue 4, pp 499–512 | Cite as

Maternal Modeling and the Acquisition of Fear and Avoidance in Toddlers: Influence of Stimulus Preparedness and Child Temperament

  • Kathrin Dubi
  • Ronald M. Rapee
  • Jane L. Emerton
  • Carolyn A. Schniering
Article

Abstract

The aim of the present study was to investigate the influence of maternal modeling on the acquisition of fear and avoidance towards fear-relevant and fear-irrelevant, novel stimuli in a sample of 71 toddlers. Children were shown a rubber snake or spider (fear-relevant objects) and a rubber mushroom or flower (fear-irrelevant objects), which were alternately paired with either negative or positive expression by their mothers. Both stimuli were presented again after a 1- and a 10-min delay, while mothers maintained a neutral expression. The toddlers showed increased fear and avoidance of the objects following negative reaction from their mothers than following positive maternal expression. This was similarly true for both fear-relevant and fear-irrelevant stimuli. In addition, no association was found between child temperament and behavioral responses and a weak association emerged between child temperament and emotional responses. The results demonstrate that young children can rapidly form conditioned emotional and behavioral responses via maternal reactions regardless of stimulus preparedness or child temperament. It is suggested that early maternal modeling may be relevant to a broad spectrum of fearful reactions.

Keywords

Fear Maternal modeling Toddlers Stimulus preparedness Temperament 

Notes

Acknowledgments

The research was supported by an overseas postgraduate research scholarship to Kathrin Dubi from the Swiss National Science Foundation and by grants of the Freiwillige Akademische Gesellschaft and the Theodor Engelmann Foundation.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kathrin Dubi
    • 1
  • Ronald M. Rapee
    • 2
  • Jane L. Emerton
    • 3
  • Carolyn A. Schniering
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of BaselBaselSwitzerland
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyMacquarie UniversitySydneyAustralia
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyUniversity of BathBathUK

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