Maternal intrusiveness predicts infants’ event-related potential responses to angry and happy prosody independent of infant frontal asymmetry

Rens Huffmeijer*, Marian J. Bakermans-Kranenburg, Judit Gervain

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Infants’ social-cognitive skills first develop within the parent–infant relationship, but large differences between parents exist in the way they approach and interact with their infant. These may have important consequences for infants’ social-cognitive development. The current study investigated effects of maternal sensitive and intrusive behavior on 6- to 7-month-old infants’ ERP responses to a socio-emotional cue that infants are often confronted with from an early age: emotional prosody in infant-directed speech. Infants may differ in their sensitivity to environmental (including parenting) influences on development, and the current study also explored whether infants’ resting frontal asymmetry conveys differential susceptibility to effects of maternal sensitivity and intrusiveness. Results revealed that maternal intrusiveness was related to the difference in infants’ ERP responses to happy and angry utterances. Specifically, P2 amplitudes in response to angry sounds were less positive than those in response to happy sounds for infants with less intrusive mothers. Whether this difference reflects an enhanced sensitivity to emotional prosody or a (processing) preference remains to be investigated. No evidence for differential susceptibility was found, as infant frontal asymmetry did not moderate effects of sensitivity or intrusiveness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)246-263
Number of pages18
Issue number3
Early online date25 Feb 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2020


RH was supported by a Marie Curie Intra-European Fellowship, Grant number 626598. MJBK was supported by research awards from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (VICI grant no. 453-09-003) and the European Research Council (ERC AdG 669249), and JG acknowledges the support of the LABEX EFL (ANR-10-LABX-0083), a Fyssen Foundation Startup Grant, an Emergence(s) Programme Grant from the City of Paris, a Human Frontiers Science Program Young Investigator Grant (RGY-0073-2014), and an ANR grant (nr. ANR-15-CE37-0009-01).

FundersFunder number
City of ParisANR-15-CE37-0009-01, RGY-0073-2014
Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research453-09-003
Horizon 2020 Framework Programme626598, 669249, 773202
European Research CouncilANR-10-LABX-0083
Fondation Fyssen


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