Preterm-infant emotion regulation during the still-face interaction

Maya Yaari, Natalie Lisette Rotzak, David Mankuta, Ayelet Harel-Gadassi, Edwa Friedlander, Smadar Eventov-Friedman, Benjamin Bar-Oz, David Zucker, Oren Shinar, Nurit Yirmiya*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Very-preterm (VPT), moderately-preterm (MPT), and full-term (FT) infants’ emotion-regulation behaviors were assessed via the Still-Face procedure at a corrected age of four months. As a developmental task during the first year of life, emotion regulation is important for social and cognitive development. Although substantial evidence indicates that VPT infants exhibit emotion-regulation difficulties, little is known about MPT infants’ emotion regulation capabilities, this group also possibly being at risk. The participants included 135 parent-infant dyads: 46 VPT (gestational age 24–32 weeks), 51 MPT (gestational age 32–34 weeks), and 38 FT (gestational age 37–41 weeks). The infants’ affect, gaze-aversion, and self-comforting behaviors were coded. Preterm infants responded to parental still face in similar fashion to FT infants, displaying robust still-face and recovery effects. The preterm infants exhibited less developed emotion-regulation behaviors, however, manifested in less positive affect and more gaze aversion in the face-to-face and reunion episodes compared to FT infants. With respect to self-comforting behaviors, each group displayed a significantly different pattern of behaviors throughout the procedure, suggesting better emotion regulation skills among MPT infants compared to the VPT infants. The findings on gaze aversion and self-comforting behaviors could have implications for strategies to incorporate into intervention programs supporting development of emotion regulation skills.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)56-65
Number of pages10
JournalInfant Behavior and Development
StatePublished - Aug 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018


  • Emotion regulation
  • Face-to-face interaction
  • Low birth weight
  • Prematurity
  • Still-face paradigm


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