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APA Journal: Developmental Psychology

Editorial.Open in a New Window

Developmental Psychology (DP) has long been in the forefront of shaping the field of life span developmental science by advancing theory, research design, and statistical methodology and applying these to timely topics. My overarching goal as editor is to ensure that DP continues to play a leading role in charting the future of developmental science research by maintaining the highest theoretical and methodological standards and to further extend our reach by continuing to encourage international and multidisciplinary researchers to submit manuscripts. My comments in this editorial are not meant to be viewed as an endorsement of any specific topic, theoretical perspective, or methodological/statistical modeling technique, and we do not propose to change the journal’s broad mission, which is to publish “articles that significantly advance knowledge and theory about development across the life span.” Rather, my comments reflect my views of the field of life span developmental science and where it is headed, informed by my own research since the early 1980s and, more recently, by my 6 years as an Associate Editor and my year as incoming Editor of DP. Based on these experiences, I want to share a few examples of what I have observed in terms of specific emerging timely content areas, as well as methodological design characteristics, that appear to be on the forefront of developmental science (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)


Infants prospectively control reaching based on the difficulty of future actions: To what extent can infants’ multiple-step actions be explained by Fitts’ law?Open in a New Window

Prospective motor control, a key element of action planning, is the ability to adjust one’s actions with respect to task demands and action goals in an anticipatory manner. The current study investigates whether 14-month-olds can prospectively control their reaching actions based on the difficulty of the subsequent action. We used a reach-to-place task, with difficulty of the placing action varied by goal size and goal distance. To target prospective motor control, we determined the kinematics of the prior reaching movements using a motion-tracking system. Peak velocity of the first movement unit of the reach served as indicator for prospective motor control. Both difficulty aspects (goal size and goal distance) affected prior reaching, suggesting that both these aspects of the subsequent action have an impact on the prior action. The smaller the goal size and the longer the distance to the goal, the slower infants were in the beginning of their reach toward the object. Additionally, we modeled movement times of both reaching and placing actions using a formulation of Fitts’ law (as in heading). The model was significant for placement and reaching movement times. These findings suggest that 14-month-olds can plan their future actions and prospectively control their related movements with respect to future task difficulties. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)


Maternal behavior predicts infant neurophysiological and behavioral attention processes in the first year.Open in a New Window

We apply a biopsychosocial conceptualization to attention development in the 1st year and examine the role of neurophysiological and social processes on the development of early attention processes. We tested whether maternal behavior measured during 2 mother−child interaction tasks when infants (N = 388) were 5 months predicted infant medial frontal (F3/F4) EEG power and observed attention behavior during an attention task at 10 months. After controlling for infant attention behavior and EEG power in the same task measured at an earlier 5-month time point, results indicated a significant direct and positive association from 5-month maternal positive affect to infant attention behavior at 10 months. However, maternal positive affect was not related to medial frontal EEG power. In contrast, 5-month maternal intrusive behavior was associated with infants’ task-related EEG power change at the left frontal location, F3, at 10 months of age. The test of indirect effects from 5-month maternal intrusiveness to 10-month infant attention behavior via infants’ EEG power change at F3 was significant. These findings suggest that the development of neural networks serving attention processes may be 1 mechanism through which early maternal behavior is related to infant attention development in the 1st year and that intrusive maternal behavior may have a particularly disruptive effect on this process. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)


Emergence of Japanese infants’ prosodic preferences in infant-directed vocabulary.Open in a New Window

The article examines the role of infant-directed vocabulary (IDV) in infants language acquisition, specifically addressing the question of whether IDV forms that are not prominent in adult language may nonetheless be useful to the process of acquisition. Japanese IDV offers a good test case, as IDV characteristically takes a bisyllabic H(eavy)-L(ight) form that is rare in adult speech. In 5 experiments using the Headturn Preference Procedure (HPP), 8- to 10-month-old Japanese infants, but not 4- to 6-month-olds, were found to show a preference for bisyllabic H-L words over other types of words. These results demonstrate (a) that infants may develop a preference for a dominant prosodic form based on infant-directed speech, even when it is not a prominent characteristic of adult language; and perhaps more importantly, and (b) that infant-directed speech may provide a boost for a feature that could be useful for infants’ acquisition of language even when it not prominent in adult language. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)


Why are faces denser in the visual experiences of younger than older infants?Open in a New Window

Recent evidence from studies using head cameras suggests that the frequency of faces directly in front of infants declines over the first year and a half of life, a result that has implications for the development of and evolutionary constraints on face processing. Two experiments tested 2 opposing hypotheses about this observed age-related decline in the frequency of faces in infant views. By the people-input hypothesis, there are more faces in view for younger infants because people are more often physically in front of younger than older infants. This hypothesis predicts that not just faces but views of other body parts will decline with age. By the face-input hypothesis, the decline is strictly about faces, not people or other body parts in general. Two experiments, 1 using a time-sampling method (84 infants, 3 to 24 months in age) and the other analyses of head camera images (36 infants, 1 to 24 months) provide strong support for the face-input hypothesis. The results suggest developmental constraints on the environment that ensure faces are prevalent early in development. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)


Maternal postnatal depression and anxiety and their association with child emotional negativity and behavior problems at two years.Open in a New Window

Postnatal maternal depression is associated with poorer child emotional and behavioral functioning, but it is unclear whether this occurs following brief episodes or only with persistent depression. Little research has examined the relation between postnatal anxiety and child outcomes. The present study examined the role of postnatal major depressive disorder (MDD) and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) symptom chronicity on children’s emotional and behavioral functioning at 24 months. Following postnatal screening mothers (n = 296) were identified as having MDD, GAD, MDD and GAD, or no disorder at 3 months postnatal; the average age was 32.3 (SD = 5.0), 91.9% self-identified as Caucasian, and 62.2% were married. Maternal disorder symptom severity was assessed by questionnaires and structured interview at 3, 6, 10, 14, and 24 months postpartum. At 24 months, child emotional negativity and behavior were assessed using questionnaires and by direct observation. Latent trait–state-occasion modeling was used to represent maternal disorder symptom chronicity; both stable trait and time-specific occasion portions of maternal symptomatology were examined in relation to child outcomes. Only the stable trait portion of maternal MDD and GAD symptom severity were related to maternal report of child behavior problems and higher levels of emotional negativity. Persistent maternal MDD, but not GAD, symptom severity was related to higher levels of child emotional negativity as measured observationally. These data suggest that children’s behavior problems and emotional negativity are adversely affected by persistent maternal depression, and possibly anxiety. This has implications for interventions to prevent negative effects of postnatal psychopathology on children. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)


Examining the predictive relations between two aspects of self-regulation and growth in preschool children’s early literacy skills.Open in a New Window

There is strong evidence that self-regulatory processes are linked to early academic skills, both concurrently and longitudinally. The majority of extant longitudinal studies, however, have been conducted using autoregressive techniques that may not accurately model change across time. The purpose of this study was to examine the unique associations between 2 components of self-regulation, attention and executive functioning (EF), and growth in early literacy skills over the preschool year using latent-growth-curve analysis. The sample included 1,082 preschool children (mean age = 55.0 months, SD = 3.73). Children completed measures of vocabulary, syntax, phonological awareness, print knowledge, cognitive ability, and self-regulation, and children’s classroom teachers completed a behavior rating measure. To examine the independent relations of the self-regulatory skills and cognitive ability with children’s initial early literacy skills and growth across the preschool year, growth models in which the intercept and slope were simultaneously regressed on each of the predictor variables were examined. Because of the significant relation between intercept and slope for most outcomes, slope was regressed on intercept in the models to allow a determination of direct and indirect effects of the predictors on growth in children’s language and literacy skills across the preschool year. In general, both teacher-rated inattention and directly measured EF were uniquely associated with initial skills level; however, only teacher-rated inattention uniquely predicted growth in early literacy skills. These findings suggest that teacher ratings of inattention may measure an aspect of self-regulation that is particularly associated with the acquisition of academic skills in early childhood. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)


Invented spelling in kindergarten as a predictor of reading and spelling in Grade 1: A new pathway to literacy, or just the same road, less known?Open in a New Window

In this study we evaluated whether the sophistication of children’s invented spellings in kindergarten was predictive of subsequent reading and spelling in Grade 1, while also considering the influence of well-known precursors. Children in their first year of schooling (mean age = 66 months; N = 171) were assessed on measures of oral vocabulary, alphabetic knowledge, phonological awareness, word reading and invented spelling; approximately 1 year later they were assessed on multiple measures of reading and spelling. Path modeling was pursued to evaluate a hypothesized unique, causal role of invented spelling in subsequent literacy outcomes. Results supported a model in which invented spelling contributed directly to concurrent reading along with alphabetic knowledge and phonological awareness. Longitudinally, invented spelling influenced subsequent reading, along with alphabetic knowledge while mediating the connection between phonological awareness and early reading. Invented spelling also influenced subsequent conventional spelling along with phonological awareness, while mediating the influence of alphabetic knowledge. Invented spelling thus adds explanatory variance to literacy outcomes not entirely captured by well-studied code and language-related skills. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)


Type of iconicity matters in the vocabulary development of signing children.Open in a New Window

Recent research on signed as well as spoken language shows that the iconic features of the target language might play a role in language development. Here, we ask further whether different types of iconic depictions modulate children’s preferences for certain types of sign-referent links during vocabulary development in sign language. Results from a picture description task indicate that lexical signs with 2 possible variants are used in different proportions by deaf signers from different age groups. While preschool and school-age children favored variants representing actions associated with their referent (e.g., a writing hand for the sign PEN), adults preferred variants representing the perceptual features of those objects (e.g., upward index finger representing a thin, elongated object for the sign PEN). Deaf parents interacting with their children, however, used action- and perceptual-based variants in equal proportion and favored action variants more than adults signing to other adults. We propose that when children are confronted with 2 variants for the same concept, they initially prefer action-based variants because they give them the opportunity to link a linguistic label to familiar schemas linked to their action/motor experiences. Our results echo findings showing a bias for action-based depictions in the development of iconic co-speech gestures suggesting a modality bias for such representations during development. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)


The fulfillment of others’ needs elevates children’s body posture.Open in a New Window

Much is known about young children’s helping behavior, but little is known about the underlying motivations and emotions involved. In 2 studies we found that 2-year-old children showed positive emotions of similar magnitude—as measured by changes in their postural elevation using depth sensor imaging technology—after they achieved a goal for themselves and after they helped another person achieve her goal. Conversely, children’s posture decreased in elevation when their actions did not result in a positive outcome. These results suggest that for young children, working for themselves and helping others are similarly rewarding. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)


Friend influence on early adolescent disruptive behavior in the classroom: Teacher emotional support matters.Open in a New Window

This research investigated how the level of disruptive behavior and friend influence on disruptive behavior varies across classrooms in relation to teacher emotional support. Data were collected from 48 fifth- and sixth-grade classrooms (N = 879 students) and included classroom observations at Wave 1 and student reports of their disruptive behavior and peer nominations of their friends at Waves 1 and 2 (fall and spring of the school year, about 6 months apart). In the fall, there were no differences in the level of disruptive behavior between classes that were low versus high in teacher emotional support. However, by spring, disruptive behavior was higher in classes with low teacher emotional support compared to classes high in teacher emotional support. Social network analyses, conducted with stochastic actor-based models, indicated that students were more likely to become similar to their friends in regards to disruptive behavior in classes low in teacher emotional support compared to classes high in teacher emotional support. Thus, the level of disruptive behavior and students’ susceptibility to friend influence on disruptive behavior depend on the nature of the classroom context. This study contributes to a growing body of research showing that teachers play an important role in shaping the nature of peer relationships in the classroom. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)


Mexican-origin youth’s risk behavior from adolescence to young adulthood: The role of familism values.Open in a New Window

Engagement in risk behavior has implications for individuals’ academic achievement, health, and well-being, yet there is a paucity of developmental research on the role of culturally relevant strengths in individual and family differences in risk behavior involvement among ethnic minority youth. In this study, we used a longitudinal cohort-sequential design to chart intraindividual trajectories of risk behavior and test variation by gender and familism values in 492 youth from 12 to 22 years of age. Participants were older and younger siblings from 246 Mexican-origin families who reported on their risk behaviors in interviews spaced over 8 years. Multilevel cohort-sequential growth models revealed that youth reported an increase in risk behavior from 12 to 18 years of age, and then a decline to age 22. Male youth reported greater overall levels and a steeper increase in risk behavior from ages 12 to 18, compared to female youth. For familism values, on occasions when youth reported higher levels, they also reported lower levels of risk behavior (i.e., within-person effect). For sibling dyads characterized by higher average levels of familism values, youth reported lower average levels of risk behavior (i.e., between-family effect). Findings provide unique insights into risk behavior from adolescence to young adulthood among Mexican-origin youth. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)


Age-related differences in audiovisual interactions of semantically different stimuli.Open in a New Window

Converging results have shown that adults benefit from congruent multisensory stimulation in the identification of complex stimuli, whereas the developmental trajectory of the ability to integrate multisensory inputs in children is less well understood. In this study we explored the effects of audiovisual semantic congruency on identification of visually presented stimuli belonging to different categories, using a cross-modal approach. Four groups of children ranging in age from 6 to 13 years and adults were administered an object identification task of visually presented pictures belonging to living and nonliving entities. Stimuli were presented in visual, congruent audiovisual, incongruent audiovisual, and noise conditions. Results showed that children under 12 years of age did not benefit from multisensory presentation in speeding up the identification. In children the incoherent audiovisual condition had an interfering effect, especially for the identification of living things. These data suggest that the facilitating effect of the audiovisual interaction into semantic factors undergoes developmental changes and the consolidation of adult-like processing of multisensory stimuli begins in late childhood. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)


Predicting reading and mathematics from neural activity for feedback learning.Open in a New Window

Although many studies use feedback learning paradigms to study the process of learning in laboratory settings, little is known about their relevance for real-world learning settings such as school. In a large developmental sample (N = 228, 8–25 years), we investigated whether performance and neural activity during a feedback learning task predicted reading and mathematics performance 2 years later. The results indicated that feedback learning performance predicted both reading and mathematics performance. Activity during feedback learning in left superior dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) predicted reading performance, whereas activity in presupplementary motor area/anterior cingulate cortex (pre-SMA/ACC) predicted mathematical performance. Moreover, left superior DLPFC and pre-SMA/ACC activity predicted unique variance in reading and mathematics ability over behavioral testing of feedback learning performance alone. These results provide valuable insights into the relationship between laboratory-based learning tasks and learning in school settings, and the value of neural assessments for prediction of school performance over behavioral testing alone. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)


Cognitive performance across the life course of Bolivian forager-farmers with limited schooling.Open in a New Window

Cognitive performance is characterized by at least two distinct life course trajectories. Many cognitive abilities (e.g., “effortful processing” abilities, including fluid reasoning and processing speed) improve throughout early adolescence and start declining in early adulthood, whereas other abilities (e.g., “crystallized” abilities like vocabulary breadth) improve throughout adult life, remaining robust even at late ages. Although schooling may impact performance and cognitive “reserve,” it has been argued that these age patterns of cognitive performance are human universals. Here we examine age patterns of cognitive performance among Tsimane forager-horticulturalists of Bolivia and test whether schooling is related to differences in cognitive performance over the life course to assess models of active versus passive cognitive reserve. We used a battery of eight tasks to assess a range of latent cognitive traits reflecting attention, processing speed, verbal declarative memory, and semantic fluency (n = 919 individuals, 49.9% female). Tsimane cognitive abilities show similar age-related differences as observed in industrialized populations: higher throughout adolescence and only slightly lower in later adulthood for semantic fluency but substantially lower performance beginning in early adulthood for all other abilities. Schooling is associated with greater cognitive abilities at all ages controlling for sex but has no attenuating effect on cognitive performance in late adulthood, consistent with models of passive cognitive reserve. We interpret the minimal attenuation of semantic fluency late in life in light of evolutionary theories of postreproductive life span, which emphasize indirect fitness contributions of older adults through the transfer of information, labor, and food to descendant kin. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)


Age differences in negative emotional responses to daily stressors depend on time since event.Open in a New Window

Research on age differences in the experience of negative emotional states have produced inconsistent results, particularly when emotion is examined in the context of daily stress. Strength and vulnerability integration (SAVI; Charles, 2010) theory postulates that age differences in emotional states are contingent upon whether a stressor occurred, and whether sufficient time has passed since the stressor to allow older adults to benefit from theorized strengths. The present study uses an ecological momentary assessment design to examine how timing of daily stressors relates to age differences in negative emotional responses. Participants (N = 199, aged 25–65) completed mobile surveys up to 5 times daily for 14 days. They reported current mood and stressor exposure, as well as how long ago the stressor occurred. As expected, no age differences were observed in current negative affect (NA) for stressors which occurred in the previous 0–10 min. As predicted, older age was associated with less of a stressor-related increase in NA when a greater time had passed (i.e., 10 min to 2.5 hours) since stressor exposure. Consistent with previous results, there were no age differences in the effects of more distal stressors that occurred 2.5 to 5 hr ago, although NA remained significantly elevated. The present findings are consistent with SAVI’s predictions and advance understanding age differences in the time course relating everyday stressors to emotional responses. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)


Unresolved loss, a risk factor for offspring, predicts event-related potential responses to death-related imagery.Open in a New Window

This study investigates whether individual differences in attachment status can be detected by electrophysiological responses to loss-themed pictures. The Adult Attachment Interview (AAI) was used to identify discourse/reasoning lapses during the discussion of loss experiences via death that place speakers in the Unresolved/disorganized AAI category. In parents, Unresolved AAI status has been associated with Disorganized infant Strange Situation response, a known risk factor for psychopathology (e.g., internalizing/externalizing/dissociation). This association has been related to anomalous frightening (FR) parental behavior in the infant’s presence, behavior presumed to be instigated by vulnerability to trauma-related fright. Here, psychophysiological methods were utilized to examine whether Unresolved AAI status could be detected in brain responses to subtle/symbolic reminders of loss. One year after AAI administration, 31 undergraduate women who had experienced loss (16 Unresolved) underwent continuous electroencephalogram (EEG) recording during a picture-viewing, valence-rating task. Picture onset-locked event-related potentials (ERPs) revealed millisecond responses to 4 picture categories: pleasant people, pleasant nature, cemetery (symbolic death), and gruesome death (dead or dying people). Participants’ valence ratings did not differ between groups across picture categories. However, the N2 ERP, implicated in detecting stimulus salience, was selectively greater in Unresolved participants viewing cemetery scenes; it was in fact as high as the N2 for gruesome death images observed throughout the sample. Additionally, Unresolved participants exhibited a right-hemispheric P3 asymmetry across picture categories, suggestive of continuously heightened vigilance/arousal. Together, these results suggest that Unresolved AAI status is associated with greater neurophysiological sensitivity to subtle reminders of loss that may disrupt ongoing mental function. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)
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