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Developmental Psychology on Fear - Dictionary of Arguments

Corr I 181
Fear/developmental psychology/psychological theories/Rothbart: When infants are four months of age, their distress and body movement to laboratory-presented stimulation predict later fear and behavioural inhibition. Positive affect and body movement, on the other hand, predict later surgency.
Developmental research to date indicates that the reactive systems of emotion and orienting are in place before the development of executive effortful attention (Posner and Rothbart 2007(1); Rothbart and Bates 2006(2)).
The onset of fear or behavioural inhibition in the last quarter of the first year of life appears to work in opposition to the infant’s approach tendencies, in that some infants who formerly rapidly approached novel objects are now slowed in their response to novel stimuli, and may not approach at all. They may also show distress to threatening objects (Rothbart 1988)(3). As with approach tendencies, individual differences in fearful behavioural inhibition show considerable stability across childhood and even into adolescence (Kagan 1998)(4). Longitudinal research has reported stability of fearful inhibition from two to eight years and from the pre-school period to age eighteen. It has also been related to later development of internalizing disorders such as anxiety (Fox 2004(5); Kagan, Snidman, Zentner and Peterson 1999(6)).
Corr I 182
Fear-related control of behaviour can be seen in the early development of conscience (Kochanska 1997(7); Kochanska, Aksan and Joy 2007(8)), with fearful children more likely to show early development of conscience. In addition, fearful children whose mothers use gentle discipline, presumably capitalizing on the child’s tendency to experience anxious states, are especially likely to develop internalized conscience.
Corr I 185
. Fear is also associated with elevations in cortisol when the child is in less optimal care, but no such association is found when the child’s care-giver is sensitive and responsive (Gunnar and Donzella 2002(9)).



1. Posner, M. I. and Rothbart, M. K. 2007. Educating the human brain. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association
2. Rothbart, M. K. and Bates, J. E. 1998. Temperament, in W. Damon (Series ed.) and N. Eisenberg (Vol. ed.), Handbook of child psychology, Vol. III, Social, emotional, and personality development, 5th edn, pp. 105–76. New York: Wiley
3. Rothbart, M. K. 1988. Temperament and the development of inhibited approach, Child Development 59: 1241–50
4. Kagan, J. 1998. Biology and the child, in W. Damon (Series ed.) and N. Eisenberg (Vol. ed.), Handbook of child psychology, vol. III, Social, emotional and personality development, 5th edn, pp. 177–235. New York: Wiley
5. Fox, N. A. 2004. Temperament and early experience form social behaviour, in S. G. Kaler and O. M. Rennert (eds.), Understanding and optimizing human development: from cells to patients to populations, 1st edn, pp. 171–8. New York: New York Academy of Sciences
6. Kagan, J., Snidman, N., Zentner, M. and Peterson, E. 1999. Infant temperament and anxious symptoms in school age children, Development and Psychopathology 11: 209–24
7. Kochanska, G. 1997. Multiple pathways to conscience for children with different temperaments: from toddlerhood to age 5, Developmental Psychology 33: 228–40
8. Kochanska, G., Aksan, N. and Joy M. E. 2007. Children’s fearfulness as a moderator of parenting in early socialization: two longitudinal studies, Developmental Psychology 43: 222–37
9. Gunnar, M. R. and Donzella, B. 2002. Social regulation of the cortisol levels in early human development, Psychoneuroendocrinology 27: 199–220


Mary K. Rothbart, Brad E. Sheese and Elisabeth D. Conradt, “Childhood temperament” in: Corr, Ph. J. & Matthews, G. (eds.) 2009. The Cambridge Handbook of Personality Psychology. New York: Cambridge University Press


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Developmental Psychology
Corr I
Philip J. Corr
Gerald Matthews
The Cambridge Handbook of Personality Psychology New York 2009

Corr II
Philip J. Corr (Ed.)
Personality and Individual Differences - Revisiting the classical studies Singapore, Washington DC, Melbourne 2018


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