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Journal Article

Children's Emotions and Behaviors in Response to Infants' Cries

Carolyn Zahn-Waxler, Sarah L. Friedman and E. Mark Cummings
Child Development
Vol. 54, No. 6 (Dec., 1983), pp. 1522-1528
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Society for Research in Child Development
DOI: 10.2307/1129815
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1129815
Page Count: 7
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Children's Emotions and Behaviors in Response to Infants' Cries
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Abstract

Infant. crying can elicit in others both a range of emotions and contrasting behavioral reactions, such as altruistic caregiving versus aggression. Variations in reactions to young infants' cries were examined in 60 children ranging in age from late preschool to preadolescence. Each child overheard either a preterm or a full-term tape-recorded cry from an adjacent room. Then a mother, carrying her infant, came looking for her (previously) "crying" infant's bottle. Later each child was interviewed after hearing a tape recording of a preterm and a full-term cry. Children's emotions and behaviors thus were assessed in response to simulated, real distresses and hypothetical representations of distress. Children's self-reports of empathy, their verbalized intentions to help, their actual helping responses, and observers' ratings of negative emotion were common responses to cries at all ages. In addition there were significant increases with age in prosocial, behavioral interventions. Expressions of negative emotion were inversely related to subsequent forms of prosocial behavior that required direct interaction with the infant. The emotions and behaviors of most children were not influenced by whether they heard preterm or full-term cries. They were, however, able to discriminate between such cries and some articulated "theories" about the impact of the cries on the listener.

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