GENETIC AND ENVIRONMENTAL INFLUENCES ON TACTILE REACTIVITY FROM INFANCY TO TODDLERHOOD

Restricted (Penn State Only)
Author:
Mammen, Micah Ashley
Graduate Program:
Psychology
Degree:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Dissertation
Date of Defense:
April 17, 2018
Committee Members:
  • Ginger A Moore, Dissertation Advisor
  • Ginger A Moore, Committee Chair
  • Jenae Marie Neiderhiser, Committee Member
  • Pamela Marie Cole, Committee Member
  • Cynthia Stifter, Outside Member
Keywords:
  • touch
  • infancy
  • genetic
Abstract:
Touch is the main modality through which infants learn from and interact with their environments and caregivers, and infants who have prolonged difficulty tolerating or responding to tactile input may be at risk for atypical development and social-emotional problems. Using a prospective adoption design, the current study examined the development of tactile reactivity between 9 and 18 months, in relation to genetic and environmental influences. This study measured children’s (N = 561; 57% male) tactile reactivity at 9 and 18 months during a novel tactile task in which adoptive parents painted children’s hands and feet and pressed them to paper to make a picture. Adoptive parents were rated, using the physical involvement subscale from the Home Observation for Measurement of the Environment inventory, on the amount of support they provided children for engaging in their physical environments. Birth parents reported their level of negative affect on the Adult Temperament Questionnaire – Short Form, and birth mothers reported on prenatal environment. Overall, children showed a significant decrease in tactile reactivity from 9 to 18 months; however, children whose birth mothers reported higher levels of negative affect showed significantly less change in tactile reactivity. Findings suggest that 9 to 18 months is a time period characterized by significant change, namely a normative decrease, in tactile reactivity, but some children show more persistent tactile reactivity due to genetic influences, which may have an impact on their cognitive, motor, and social-emotional development.