Behavioral Inhibition and the Emotional Circuitry of the Brain: Stability and Plasticity During the Early Childhood Years
This chapter presents the data that adrenocortical activity is an important factor mediating the child's internal social milieu. The results show that rat pups may “internalize” the results of early maternal regulation, encoded as information about how easy or difficult it is to activate stress-sensitive systems in adulthood. Discussion on attachment, temperament and adrenocortical function is also provided. Even though only a few studies on attachment and cortisol in humans have been conducted, it is probably that thresholds for adrenocortical function are influenced by early mother-child interactions. The most consistent result observed is that infants with disorganized attachments display larger cortisol responses to the Strange Situation than do those with organized attachments. It can be concluded that there are at least two pathways to hyperactivity of the adrenocortical system: (1) innate constitutional differences (temperament) and (2) less than optimal mother-infant interactions early in life.
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