INFANT DYSREGULATION--RISK FACTOR FOR PSYCHOPATHOLOGY
The study of infant dysregulation may prove to be a key in understanding the origins of childhood onset psychopathology. Dysregulation of behavior and emotions are among the primary deficits that characterize children's mental disorders. Individual differences in dysregulation of behavior and emotions are present at birth. It is not known, however, whether these individual differences are stable, whether factors in the early caregiving environment affect thee individual differences, whether individual differences in the behavioral and emotional dysregulation of infants are predictive of later behavioral and emotional problems. The candidate proposes training and development in the assessment of infant dysregulation that will provide a foundation for addressing these questions. The candidate, a postdoctoral fellow in developmental psychopathology in the Department of psychiatry at the University of Chicago, completed a child clinical psychology program, and is trained in the assessment of behavioral and emotional problems in toddlers and preschool children.
The specific aims of this proposal are: 1) develop expertise in the assessment of behavioral and biological markers of dysregulation in neonates and infants; 2) to identify risk factors in the pre-and postnatal environment that may affect infant dysregulation such as prenatal risk factors, characteristics of the primary caregiver, and the interaction between the infant and the caregiver and 3) to test the hypothesis that neonatal and infant behavioral and biological markers of dysregulation are precursors to behavioral and emotional problems.
The development and training program will include training under the direction of experts in the field of infant dysregulation, developmental psychopathology, developmental biology, and longitudinal data analysis, piloting of the assessment of behavioral and biological measures of dysregulation and early mother-infant interaction, and a research project that will allow the candidate to implement the skills developed during the training period. A sample of 125 pregnant women from low-income families will be recruited during their third trimester. A combination of risk factors will be measured including characteristics of the primary caregiver, pregnancy and delivery complications, neonatal behavioral and biological dysregulation, and mother-infant interaction. These factors, measured over the first 18 months of life, will be used to predict behavioral and emotional problems at age 2.
By completing the proposed development and training program, the candidate will attain a comprehensive knowledge base of the assessment of the earliest putative precursors to psychopathology, and will pursue an independent program of research aimed at identifying the trajectories to early-onset behavioral and emotional problems. Ultimately the candidate will test the hypothesis that treatment of early signs of dysregulation will prevent the development of mental disorders in children.