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Children's Emotion Regulation: Frontal EEG Asymmetry and Behavior during a Disappointment

Forbes, Erika Elaine (2003) Children's Emotion Regulation: Frontal EEG Asymmetry and Behavior during a Disappointment. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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The approach-withdrawal model of emotion regulation posits that emotional behaviors are associated with a balance of activity in left and right frontal brain areas that can be explained in an asymmetry measurement. According to the model, approach emotions such as joy are associated with greater relative activity in left frontal brain areas and withdrawal emotions such as fear are associated with greater relative activity in right frontal brain areas (Davidson, 1992; Fox, 1991). The hypothesis tested in the present study is that children's approach and withdrawal behavior are related to resting and task-related brain electrical activity. Fifty-eight children from age 3-9 years were assessed during a laboratory task designed to elicit disappointment. In this task, children were led to believe that they would receive their favorite of a group of toys but instead were given their least favorite toy. Electroencephalogram (EEG) activity was measured during rest and during the task condition in which the child received the least-favorite toy, and asymmetry scores for midfrontal sites were computed. Approach behaviors (e.g., smiling) and withdrawal behaviors (e.g., facial expressions of disgust) during the task were coded from videotape. Children with right frontal asymmetry at rest exhibited more withdrawal behavior and were more likely to express sadness during the task. Approach behavior was not associated with frontal asymmetry. Sadness expressions decreased with age, smiling increased with age, and children whose parents had high depressive symptoms exhibited anger more frequently. These findings provide limited support for the approach-withdrawal model and suggest that the relation between resting asymmetry and withdrawal behavior might be stronger than that for resting asymmetry and approach behavior.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Forbes, Erika Elaineerika@pitt.eduERIKA
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairCohn, Jeffrey F.jeffcohn@pitt.eduJEFFCOHN
Committee MemberShaw, Daniel S.casey@pitt.eduCASEY
Committee MemberPogue-Geile, Michael F.mfpg@pitt.eduMFPG
Committee MemberFox, Nathan
Committee MemberCampbell, Susan B.sbcamp@pitt.eduSBCAMP
Date: 17 November 2003
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 22 May 2003
Approval Date: 17 November 2003
Submission Date: 28 May 2003
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Psychology
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: developmental psychopathology; emotional development; individual differences; psychophysiology
Other ID:, etd-05282003-172541
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 19:46
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:44


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