Emotional Unavailability

The most extreme form of emotional unavailability,mother’s depres

sion, had the most negative effects. The disorganization or emotion dysreg

ulation in this case is more prolonged. Changes in physiology (heart rate,

vagal tone, and cortisol levels), in play behavior, affect, activity level, and

sleep organization as well as other regulating functions such as eating and

toileting, and even in the immune system persist for the duration of the

mother’s depression. My colleagues and I have suggested that these changes

occur because the infant is being chronically deprived of an important exter-

nal regulator of stimulation (the mother) and thus fails to develop emotion

regulation or organized behavioral and physiological rhythms. Finally, indi- vidual differences were discussed, including those related to maturity (e.g.,

prematurity) and temperament/personality (e.g., uninhibited/inhibited or externalizing/internalizing) and those deriving from degree of mother- infant mismatch, such as dissimilar temperaments.


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