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The strategies to regulate emotion

Affect regulation is considered to be the keystone of social–emotional development during infancy characterising early childhood behaviour. The strategies infants develop to regulate emotion during the first year of life are theorised to underlie their ability to develop secure attachment relationships and achievement of autonomy in the second and third years of life.

Characteristic patterns of regulating state and organising experience are believed to develop from repeated interactions between infant and caregiver around the achievement of physical and later, emotional homeostasis (Sroufe, 1995). The establishment of such patterns early in life is now known to affect the development of neuronal pathways in the brain, encouraging the elaboration of those circuits that are activated repeatedly in infancy (Schore, 1994). The behaviour of caregivers is clearly central to this process, as it is the caregiver who provides strategies for state regulation, which are subsequently internalised by the developing child (Sroufe, 1995; Stern, 1985). These strategies generalise over time to include the regulation of affective states, arousal, attention, and the organisation of complex behaviours that includesocial interaction. Infants born addicted to opiates have been described as extremely reactive to sensory stimulation, easily agitated and behaviourally disorganised (Freier, Griffith,& Chasnoff,1991).

It is reported that these infants spend most of their time in extreme states of sleep or agitation and crying. Their state changes tend to be abrupt and inappropriate for the level of stimulation encountered. Research using the Neonatal Behaviour Assessment Scale3shows infants exposed to opiates in utero display higher levels of arousal, poorer quieting, poorer motor control, higher muscle tone and poorer alertness/orientation (Hans, 1992).

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