The present study measured event-related potentials (ERPs) to investigate whether cortical responses to facial expressions of fear are associated with the development of secure and insecure patterns of infant–mother attachment during the first year. Based on previous findings showing reduced attentional biases to fearful faces in infants with insecure and disorganized attachment, we hypothesized that insecure and disorganized attachment would be associated with reduced ERP differentiation of fearful from non-fearful faces. ERPs to facial expressions were measured at 7 months of age and attachment was assessed at 14 months of age with the Strange Situation Procedure (n = 61). Occipitotemporal face-sensitive ERP responses particularly in the time range of the N290 component were related to attachment security at 14 months. Only securely attached infants showed age-typical cortical discrimination of fearful from non-fearful faces at 7 months, whereas a similar pattern of ERP responses was not observed in infants with insecure and disorganized attachment. These results add to previous findings by suggesting that patterns of secure and insecure infant attachment are related to early-emerging differences in the perceptual processing of facial emotions, which could have implications for the development of social competence.

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Attachment and Human Development
Department of Psychology

Peltola, M.J. (Mikko J.), van IJzendoorn, R., & Yrttiaho, S. (Santeri). (2018). Attachment security and cortical responses to fearful faces in infants. Attachment and Human Development. doi:10.1080/14616734.2018.1530684