Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

, Volume 47, Issue 2, pp 209–219 | Cite as

Positive and Negative Emotionality at Age 3 Predicts Change in Frontal EEG Asymmetry across Early Childhood

  • Brandon L. GoldsteinEmail author
  • Stewart A. Shankman
  • Autumn Kujawa
  • Dana C. Torpey-Newman
  • Margaret W. Dyson
  • Thomas M. Olino
  • Daniel N. Klein


Depression is characterized by low positive emotionality (PE) and high negative emotionality (NE), as well as asymmetries in resting electroencephalography (EEG) alpha power. Moreover, frontal asymmetry has itself been linked to PE, NE, and related constructs. However, little is known about associations of temperamental PE and NE with resting EEG asymmetries in young children and whether this association changes as a function of development. In a longitudinal study of 254 three-year old children, we assessed PE and NE at age 3 using a standard laboratory observation procedure. Frontal EEG asymmetries were assessed at age 3 and three years later at age 6. We observed a significant three-way interaction of preschool PE and NE and age at assessment for asymmetry at F3-F4 electrode sites, such that children with both low PE and high NE developed a pattern of increasingly lower relative left-frontal cortical activity over time. In addition, F7-F8 asymmetry was predicted by a PE by time interaction, such that the frontal asymmetry in children with high PE virtually disappeared by age 6. Overall, these findings suggest that early temperament is associated with developmental changes in frontal asymmetry, and that the combination of low PE and high NE predicts the development of the pattern of frontal symmetry that is associated with depression.


Positive emotionality Negative emotionality Development Resting eeg Frontal asymmetry Depression Children 


Compliance with Ethical Standards


This work was supported by National Institute of Mental Health grant R01 MH069942 (Klein).

Conflict of Interest

The authors report no conflicts of interest.

Ethical Approval

The study was approved by Stony Brook Universities Internal Review Board for Research with Human Subjects.

Informed Consent

Consent was obtained at all assessement points from the parent.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Brandon L. Goldstein
    • 1
    Email author
  • Stewart A. Shankman
    • 2
  • Autumn Kujawa
    • 3
  • Dana C. Torpey-Newman
    • 4
  • Margaret W. Dyson
    • 5
  • Thomas M. Olino
    • 6
  • Daniel N. Klein
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyStony Brook UniversityStony BrookUSA
  2. 2.University of Illinois at ChicagoChicagoUSA
  3. 3.Pennsylvania State College of MedicineHersheyUSA
  4. 4.Independent PracticeSan DiegoUSA
  5. 5.University of California, San DiegoSan DiegoUSA
  6. 6.Temple UniversityPhiladelphiaUSA

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