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Research at TRI

CHILDREN

 

Aerobics

 

Alpert, B., Field, T., Goldstein, S., & Perry, S. (1990). Aerobics enhances cardiovascular fitness and agility in preschoolers. Health Psychology, 9, 48- 56.

 

• Thirty minutes of aerobics were provided daily for a period of 8 weeks for a group of children while other children engaged in freeplay on the school playground. The aerobic group showed decreases in heart rate, and increases in agility and self-esteem following the exercise program. These findings suggest that cardiovascular fitness, agility and self-esteem can be facilitated in preschoolers by aerobics.



Art

 

Aylward, K., Hartley, S., Vega-Lahr, N., Greer, J., & Field, T. (1993). An art appreciation curriculum for preschool children. Early Child Development and Care, 96, 35-48.


• A 10- week art appreciation curriculum was provided for preschool children for one-half hour per week in small groups in their classroom. Following the course the children showed greater involvement in art and tended to be more consistent in their artwork preferences. They were also better able to distinguish paintings from sculptures, and they improved on tasks that involved naming artists and identifying artists’ works. Finally their self-esteem scores increased.

 


Autism         

 

Field, T. & Diego, M. (2008). Vagal Activity, Early Growth and Emotional Development. Infant Behavior and Development,31, 361-373.

• A review of the research on infant vagal tone suggests that vagal activity is associated with both infant growth and infant socioemotional development. Vagal activity has been noted to increase following the stimulation of pressure receptors, as in massage therapy. Vagal activity, in turn, stimulates gastric motility which mediates weight gain in infants. Vagal activity has also been notably elevated during synchronous mother-infant interactions and positive affect, providing confirmatory data for the Porges "social engagement system" model. In contrast, low vagal activity has been noted in prenatally depressed mothers (and prenatally angry and anxious mothers) and their infants, as well as in children with autism. These studies highlight the relations between vagal activity and the social behaviors of attentiveness, facial expressions and vocalizations.


                       

Field, T., Nadel, J., Diego, M., Hernandez-Reif, M., Russo, K., Vchulek, D. & Lendi, K. (2008). Children with Autism Are More Imitative With An Imitative Adult Than With Their Parents. Early Child Development and Care, 178, 1-6.

 

Children with autism (mean age = 6 years) were videotaped first interacting with a parent and then with an unfamiliar researcher who imitated the child’s behaviours. The researcher showed more imitative and playful behaviours than the parents. In turn, the children showed more imitative behaviour when playing with the imitative researcher than with their parents.

 


 

Nadel, J., Field, T., Escalona, A., & Lundy, B. (2007).  Children with autism approach more imitative and playful adults. Early Child Development and Care, 177, 461-465.

 

Children with autism were selected to be in high-approach and low-approach groups based on a median split of their proximity-seeking behavior with adults (looking at, approaching and touching adults) during videotaped interactions. The same videotapes of those two sets of interactions were then coded and analyzed for the adult partners’ behaviors. The adult interaction partner of high approach children showed more looking at child, smiling at child, moving toward child, inviting child to play, imitating child in play and being playful.


Day Care

Bendell, D., Stone, W., Field, T., & Goldstein, S. (1988). Children's effects on parenting stress in a low income, minority population. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, 8, 58- 71.

• Relationships between parenting stress as measured by the Parenting Stress Index and other maternal and child characteristics were investigated in a sample of low income mothers and their 5- to 8- year- old children who were at risk for educational disabilities. Because the children’s behavior and academic achievement constituted significant sources of parent stress, supportive counseling services may be needed that are often required for children of low income, less well-educated parents.


Field, T., Masi, W., Goldstein, S., Perry, S., & Parl, S. (1988). Infant daycare facilitates preschool social behavior. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 3, 341- 359.

• Preschool-age children entering infant day care at varying times and receiving varying amounts of infant day care were compared on their reunion-with-parent behavior, teacher and parent ratings of their behavior, and playground play interactions. Continuous infant day care in quality centers facilitated preschool social behavior and does not negatively affect attachment behavior.


Field, T. (1991). Quality infant day-care and grade school behavior and performance. Child Development, 62, 863-870.

• The amount of time spent in full-time center care was positively related to the number of friends and extracurricular activities of the children. In addition, more time in the center was positively related to parents’ ratings of the children’s emotional well-being, leadership, popularity, attractiveness, and assertiveness and negatively related to aggressivity. Children with more time in high-quality day-care showed more physical affection during peer interactions, were more often assigned to the gifted program, and received higher math grades.

 



Depression


Field, T., Sandberg, D., Goldstein, S., Garcia, R., Vega Lahr, N., Porter, K., & Dowling, M. (1987). Play interactions and interviews of depressed and conduct disorder children and their mothers. Child Psychiatry and Human Development, 17, 213- 233.


• Normal, depressed and conduct disorder children (M age = 5 years) were interviewed (as were their mothers) and observed in free play and puzzle completion tasks both alone and together with their mothers to determine differences in temperament, behavior problems and play interaction behaviors. The depressed children reported more “depressed” feelings, lower self- esteem and more external locus of control. Although their mothers were indistinguishable from mothers of normal children on interviews, their dyadic play behavior together suggested less fantasy play and less involvement. The conduct disorder children’s interview responses did not differ from their normal peers, although their mothers reported more self-depression, more external locus of control and less nurturant childrearing practices and rated their children as having more active temperaments. The conduct disorder children were more active motorically and less interactive during play sessions, and their mothers were less interactive and more disapproving than the other mothers. The results are discussed in the context of the literature on different behavior problems, self-concept, temperament and childrearing practices in these two groups of disturbed children.


 

Lundy, B., Field, T., McBride, C., Abrams, S., & Carraway, K. (1997). Child psychiatric patients’ interactions with their mothers. Child Psychiatry and Human Development, 27, 231-240.


• This study investigated whether child psychiatric patients and their mothers interacted differently as a function of whether the children were diagnosed as having internalizing or externalizing disorders. The children and their mothers were rated on eight behavior dimensions as they engaged in a ten-minute play session. Overall, both children with internalizing and externalizing disorders showed fewer positive behaviors when their mothers were depressed. Children with an externalizing disorder appeared to be more affected by their mothers' depression than those with an internalizing disorder. Based on the present findings then, there appeared to be a strong relation between maternal depression and child psychiatric patients' behaviors (i.e., affect, interactiveness, eye contact and whether the child included the mother in their play interactions).



Disturbed Children

Gonzalez, K., Field, T., Lasko, D., La Greca, A., & Lahey, B. (1996). Social anxiety and aggression in behaviorally disordered children. Early Child Development and Care, 121, 1-8.

• Boys attending classes for the behaviorally disturbed were given questionnaires on trait anxiety, social anxiety, empathy, depression and self esteem, and teachers rated them on aggression to test the hypothesis that anxiety and empathy attenuate aggression. Contrary to the hypothesis, anxiety and empathy scores were not correlated with aggression. However, scores on all of these measures were higher than those for normative samples suggesting that this sample had a limited range. A second important finding was that social anxiety was positively correlated with trait anxiety and depression.


Drug Effects


DeCubas, M.M., & Field, T. (1993). Children of methadone-dependent women: Developmental outcomes. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry,63, 266-276.


• A group of school age children was assessed for possible effects of prenatal exposure to methadone compared to a control group of non-exposed children. Methadone-exposed children exhibited greater anxiety, aggression and rejection, and their mothers reported more behavior problems.



Fantasy Play


Field, T., DeStefano, L., & Koewler, J. (1982). Fantasy play of toddlers and preschoolers. Developmental Psychology, 18, 503- 508.


• Reality play, object and person fantasy play and announced fantasy play were observed during the free play of children age 1 to 5 years in their mixed-age preschool class. Comparisons were made across three different age groups, and a subsample of children was observed again a year later to determine age differences and the developmental course of these types of play. Although the age curves are linear for some and curvilinear for other types of reality/fantasy play, a general developmental progression emerged from reality play to object fantasy to person fantasy and announced fantasy play.


Friends

Field, T., Greenwald, P., Morrow, C., Foster, T., Guthertz, M., Healy, B. & Frost, P. (1992). Behavior state matching during interactions of preadolescent friends versus acquaintances. Developmental Psychology, 28, 242-250.

• Face-to face interactions of sixth-grade friend and acquaintance pairs were videotaped, heart rate was recorded, and saliva cortisol was sampled. Greater coherence in the friend pairs’ behavior states and in the acquaintance pairs’ vocal activity suggested that the friend pairs more often shared the same behavior state (e.g., playful), and the acquaintance pairs more often paid attention to each others’ turn- taking signals, so that when one person talked, the other was silent.


Field, T., Miller, J., & Field, T. (1994). How well preschoolers know their friends. Early Child Development and Care, 100, 101-109.

• Preschoolers were observed during classroom and playground play and were subsequently interviewed. The best friend choice of 81% of the children was confirmed by at least one other source (teacher, classroom, or playground observation). The children were also accurate about several of their best friends’ characteristics including their hair color, relative age and height. The children’s most common reasons for having friends were “for play” and because they “liked” their friends.


Goldstein, S., Field, T., & Healy, B. (1989). Concordance of play behavior and physiology in preschool friends. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 10, 337- 351.

• Close friends and acquaintances were identified among nursery school toddlers and preschoolers based on behavioral observation sociograms and child and teacher sociometric ratings. Greater concordance was noted for friend versus acquaintance pairs on some play behaviors, suggesting that friends become attuned to each others' behaviors and physiological rhythms as early as the toddler/preschool stage. Furthermore, stress experienced by young children may be reduced by the presence of a close friend, thereby reinforcing the notion that early friendships play an important role in development.


Handicapped

Field, T. (1981). Ecological variables and examiner biases in assessing handicapped preschool children. Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 6, 155- 163.

• Handicapped preschool children’s developmental assessment performance and test taking behaviors were positively affected by the presence of toys in the waiting room and by being given the developmental prior to the physical assessment. Having an examiner familiar with the child or the child’s record tended to deflate scores, suggesting that the familiar examiner may have had lesser expectations of the child which, in turn, may have limited attempts at eliciting optimal performance of the child. Examiners who had recent experience in testing normal children systematically assigned lower scores to the handicapped children suggesting that examiners without recent experience in testing normal children may have had handicapped children rather than normal children as a frame of reference.


Field, T., Roseman, S., DeStefano, L., & Koewler, J.H.(1981). Play behaviors of handicapped preschool children in the presence and absence of non handicapped peers. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 2, 49- 58.

• Minimally handicapped children and non-handicapped children were observed playing as separate classes and as a combined group on their preschool playground. The results suggest that the normal children were not negatively affected and the handicapped children were positively affected by the integrated play situation.


Greenberg, R., & Field, T. (1982). Temperament ratings of handicapped infants during classroom, mother, and teacher interactions. Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 7, 387- 405.

• The temperament of normal and same-developmental age, developmentally delayed, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, and audio-visually handicapped infants was assessed by the infants’ mothers, teachers, and an independent observer using the Carey Infant Temperament Questionnaire. Mothers tended to rate their infants’ temperament as being less difficult than did the observers who, in turn, assigned less-difficult ratings than teachers. Normal, developmentally delayed, and Down syndrome infants received less-difficult ratings than cerebral palsy and audiovisually handicapped infants on most of the temperament dimensions rated during classroom play. The interaction context also appeared to affect temperament ratings with more difficult ratings assigned during classroom play than during dyadic interactions.


Hospitalization

Field, T. Alpert, B., Vega Lahr, N. Goldstein, S., & Perry, S. (1988). Hospitalization stress in children: Sensitizer and repressor coping styles. Health Psychology, 7, 433- 445.

• To examine the effects of individual sensitizer/repressor coping styles on responses to hospital procedures, children (mean age = 6.5 years) were observed during hospitalization for minor surgery. The sensitizer children were more talkative, expressive, and active during hospital play observations and required fewer hours of intensive care.


Imitation

Lubin, L., & Field, T., (1981). Imitation during preschool peer interactions. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 4, 443- 453.

• Two to four-year-old preschool children’s peer interactions were observed during free play. A curvilinear relationship between age and imitation was noted with three-year-olds engaging in the greatest amount of imitation. The use of imitation as an interaction also contributed to the greatest amount of variance on sustained interactions.


Legal Interviews

 

Field, T., Malphurs, J., Yando, R., Bendell, D., Carraway, K. & Cohen, R. (2008). Legal interviewers use children’s affect and eye contact cues to assess credibility of their testimony. Early Child Development and Care, 178, 1-7.

 

Based on interviews with 120 children ranging from age 3 to 12, legal interviewers rated the grade school and middle school age children as competent and as understanding the meaning of lying. The interviewers rated the grade school children as more credible ‘witnesses in court’ than either the preschool or the middle school age children. The cues they reported using most frequently were affect and eye contact.


Music

Field, T. (1999). Music enhances sleep in preschool children. Early Child Development and Care, 150, 65-68.

• Background classical guitar music was played to preschool children at naptime on alternate days in order to assess its effect on naptime sleep onset. On the music versus no music days the children fell asleep faster and the toddlers faster than the preschoolers.


Peer Preferences

Field, T. (1982). Same sex preferences of preschool children: An artifact of same age grouping? Child Study Journal, 12, 151- 159.

• Preschool children, aged 2 to 5 years, were observed during free play with a group of same-age and a group of mixed-age classmates. More frequent play with same-sex peers occurred during the same-age than the mixed-age group play situation. Data suggests that comparable verbal fluency may be a significant factor in the formation of peer preferences. Children may prefer same-sex children in the same-age situation because they are more closely matched on verbal abilities.



Play

Roopnarine, J.L., & Field, T.M. (1983). Peer directed behaviors of infants and toddlers during nursery school play. Infant Behavior and Development, 6, 133 138.

• Peer-directed behaviors of infants and toddlers were observed during nursery school free play at the beginning and end of a semester. Both infants and toddlers directed positive behaviors toward their peers more frequently than negative behaviors. At both observation periods toddlers engaged in more distal social behaviors, particularly vocalizing and laughing, than infants. These data and other reports in the literature suggest that proximal contact behaviors may be more affected by time apart with peers and distal social behaviors may be more age-dependent.


Segal, M., Peck, J., Vega Lahr, N., & Field, T. (1987). A medieval kingdom: leader follower styles of preschool play. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 8, 79- 95.

• Three studies were conducted to determine the validity and utility of a leader-follower preschool social style classification system developed by Adcock and Segal (1983) called the Medieval Kingdom. In their system, preschool children were classified as Lords, Bishops, Vassals, and Serfs as a function of their leader-follower styles. The Lords and Bishops exhibited more frequent leadership behaviors (organization/maintenance of play), while Serfs showed more follower-type behaviors (nondirective and peripheral play behaviors). Vassals' behaviors fell between those of the Lords/Bishops and the Serfs. Finally, a case study investigated the utility of pairing leaders-followers to reduce the aggressive behavior of followers in the classroom. Verbal reinforcement of the dyadic play of paired leaders and followers facilitated a reduction in aggressive behavior.



Separation Stress

Field, T. (1984). Separation stress of young children transferring to new schools. Developmental Psychology, 20, 786- 792.

• Preschool children who were transferring to new schools were observed during a 2-wk period prior to the separation from their classmates who were not transferring. Results showed that children who were leaving the school, compared to those who were staying, showed greater fantasy play, physical contact, negative statements and affect, and less fussiness, lower activity level, lower tonic heart rate, and less illness, as well as changes in eating and sleeping patterns. Shortly after their departure, this agitated behavior appeared to diminish in the children who were leaving but increased for those who remained in the school. This behavior pattern may represent a coping response to separation in an environment that is laden with cues of the losses associated with separation.


Field, T., Gewirtz, J. L., Cohen, D., Garcia, R., Greenberg, R., & Collins, K. (1984). Leavetakings and reunions of infants, toddlers, preschoolers and their parents. Child Development, 55, 628- 635.

• The leave-taking and reunion behaviors of infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and their parents were observed as the children were "dropped off" and "picked up" at their nursery school each day. Parent behaviors such as verbal explanation, distracting the child, latency to leave, and "sneaking out of the room" were correlated with children's distress and leave-taking distress was related to ambivalent behavior at reunion.


Field, T., & Reite, M. (1984). Children's responses to separation from mother during the birth of another child. Child Development, 55, 1308- 1316.

• Preschool children's behavioral and physiological responses to separation were monitored before, during, and after their mothers' hospitalization for the birth of a sibling. Following the mother's return, decreases were noted in positive affect, activity level, heart rate, and active sleep suggestive of depression.


Field, T., Vega Lahr, N., & Jagadish, S. (1984). Separation stress of nursery school infants and toddlers graduating to new classes. Infant Behavior and Development, 7, 527-530

• The play behaviors and sleep patterns of infants (15 months) and toddlers (24 months) were observed during the first and fourth week of the month preceding and following their graduation to new nursery classes. The infants as compared to the toddlers were less agitated just prior to graduation, but more agitated during the first week in their new class. Those infants/toddlers who moved to a new class with a close friend appeared to be less affected by the transfer than those who did not move with a close friend.


Field, T. (1991). Young children's adaptations to repeated separations from their mothers. Child Development, 62, 539-547.

• Infants, toddlers, and preschoolers were observed before, during, and after separations from their mothers, who were attending conferences (M = 4 days). Only the first separation was stressful. Infants and children in this study seemed to adapt to repeated separations.


Field, T. (1996). Attachment and separation in young children. Annual Review of Psychology, 47, 541-561.

• Separations may be stressful to the infant and young child because of the loss of a major source of reinforcement. Reinforcement is typically provided by the mother in the form of adequate stimulation and arousal modulation. Loss of control, feedback, and predictability, which are clearly important features of their interaction, could also occur during separations.


Fox, N., & Field, T. (1989). Individual differences in preschool entry behavior. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 10, 527- 540.

• Preschool entry behavior was investigated in three-year-old children who were entering preschool for the first time. Individual differences in the children's vagal tone, a measure of parasympathetic control over heart rate, and temperament predicted solitary and interactive behavior patterns over the first 6 weeks of preschool. Children with high vagal tone and activity level and low distractibility showed a greater decrease in solitary play behavior and a greater increase in interactive play behavior over the first 6 weeks of preschool.


Teacher/ Child Ratios

Field, T.M. (1980). Preschool play: Effects of teacher/child ratios and organization of classroom space. Child Study Journal, 10, 191- 205.

• Eight white,  middle-class, 3-4-year old children were observed in four daycare classrooms varying on two dimensions: teacher/child ratios and physical layout. A number of sex and group differences emerged which suggested that the optimal classroom for facilitating peer interactions and fantasy play among middle-class, preschool children was the classroom featuring a low teacher/child ratio and partitioned special play areas.


Temperament

Field, T. & Greenberg, R. (1982). Temperament ratings by parents and teachers of infants, toddlers, and preschool children. Child Development, 53, 160- 163.

• Temperament ratings of infants, toddlers, and preschool children were made by their parents and their all-day nursery school teachers to determine whether low parent-observer reliabilities previously reported may relate to differential experience with children. Despite the teachers’ extensive contact with these children, convergence coefficients were no greater than those generally reported in the literature. The dimensions on which there was interrater agreement were rhythmicity at the infancy stage and persistence and adaptability at the toddler/preschool stage. Convergence of parent and teacher ratings was greater at the toddler/ preschool stage than during infancy.


Testimony

Field, T., Malphurs, J., Yando, R., Bendell, D., Carraway, K. & Cohen, R. (2008). Legal interviewers use children’s affect and eye contact cues to assess credibility of their testimony. Early Child Development and Care, 178, 1-7.

• Based on interviews with 120 children ranging from age 3 to 12, legal interviewers rated the grade school and middle school age children as competent and as understanding the meaning of lying. The results of this study indicate discrete age differences among abused children in terms of their credibility as witnesses in court. Children aged six to nine were viewed as the most credible future witnesses and least vague in their responses to questions about their alleged abuse. Younger children (three to five) were viewed by the Children’s Center interviewers as the least credible future witnesses, perhaps because of other variables including difficulty retrieving information about the abuse, lack of competence and a lack of understanding the meaning of truth and lying. The oldest children (10–12) understood truth and lying and had little difficulty retrieving and recalling information about their abuse. However, the interviewers found this group of children to be more vague in their responses and less consistent in their statements, perhaps indicating a higher level of coercion and suggestibility among this age group. The oldest group was also seen as less credible future witnesses, possibly as a result of these inconsistencies.


Touching

Cigales, M., Field, T., Hossain, Z., Pelaez-Nogueras, M., & Gewirtz, J. (1996). Touch among children at nursery school. Early Child Development & Care, 126, 101-110.

• Naturalistic observations of touching behaviors were conducted among children, ranging from 3 to 64 months of age. Preschool children engaged in touching behavior similar to touching observed among adults. Touch involved “vulnerable body parts” more often among toddlers than among preschoolers. ‘Negative’ responses to being touched occurred more often among toddlers than among preschoolers, and task-related touch occurred less often in the preschool than in the toddler and infant classes.


Field, T., Harding, J. Soliday, B., Lasko, D., Gonzalez, N.,& Valdeon, C. (1994). Touching in infant, toddler & preschool nurseries. Early Child Development and Care,98, 113-120.

• Observations were made in infant, toddler and preschool nurseries to establish baseline touching between children and their peers and teachers. Positive touch (including holding, hugging, kissing, handholding, and caregiving) increased following a request to teachers to increase their touching. Boys were touched in a positive way more frequently than girls, and progressively less positive touch was noted across ages from the infant to toddler to preschool nurseries. Carrying and caregiving in the nurseries were correlated with time spent holding by parents during end-of day reunions. Teacher ratings of touch behavior were related to actual behavior, i.e. how often the teacher thought she touched the child was correlated with how often the child was actually touched, and how much the child liked being touched correlated with how much the child was touched during reunion with the parents.


Type A Behavior

Vega Lahr, N., & Field, T. (1986). Type A behavior in preschool children. Child Development, 57, 1333- 1348.

• Type A behaviors were observed in a group of 48 preschool children in different free-play and competitive situations. The data were consistent with other findings on type A behavior in preschool children and suggest that the behavioral dimensions of type A (competitiveness and impatience-aggression) may emerge as early as the preschool years, particularly in competitive situations.


Vagal Activity

 

Field, T. & Diego, M. (2008). Vagal Activity, Early Growth and Emotional Development. Infant Behavior and Development,31, 361-373.

• A review of the research on infant vagal tone suggests that vagal activity is associated with both infant growth and infant socioemotional development. Vagal activity has been noted to increase following the stimulation of pressure receptors as in massage therapy. Vagal activity, in turn, stimulates gastric motility which mediates weight gain in infants. Vagal activity has also been notably elevated during synchronous mother-infant interactions and positive affect, providing confirmatory data for the Porges "social engagement system" model. In contrast, low vagal activity has been noted in prenatally depressed mothers (and prenatally angry and anxious mothers) and their infants, as well as in children with autism. These studies highlight the relations between vagal activity and the social behaviors of attentiveness, facial expressions and vocalizations.