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Home » Annual Research Review: ‘There, the dance is – at the still point of the turning world’ – dynamic systems perspectives on coregulation and dysregulation during early development

Annual Research Review: ‘There, the dance is – at the still point of the turning world’ – dynamic systems perspectives on coregulation and dysregulation during early development

Annual Research Review: ‘There, the dance is – at the still point of the turning world’ – dynamic systems perspectives on coregulation and dysregulation during early development

‘Annual Research Review: ‘There, the dance is – at the still point of the turning world’ – dynamic systems perspectives on coregulation and dysregulation during early development’

Open Access paper from the JCPP

During development we transition from coregulation (where regulatory processes are shared between child and caregiver) to self-regulation. Most early coregulatory interactions aim to manage fluctuations in the infant’s arousal and alertness; but over time, coregulatory processes become progressively elaborated to encompass other functions such as sociocommunicative development, attention and executive control. The fundamental aim of coregulation is to help maintain an optimal ‘critical state’ between hypo- and hyperactivity. Here, we present a dynamic framework for understanding child–caregiver coregulatory interactions in the context of psychopathology. Early coregulatory processes involve both passive entrainment, through which a child’s state entrains to the caregiver’s, and active contingent responsiveness, through which the caregiver changes their behaviour in response to behaviours from the child. Similar principles, of interactive but asymmetric contingency, drive joint attention and the maintenance of epistemic states as well as arousal/alertness, emotion regulation and sociocommunicative development. We describe three ways in which active child–caregiver regulation can develop atypically, in conditions such as Autism, ADHD, anxiety and depression. The most well-known of these is insufficient contingent responsiveness, leading to reduced synchrony, which has been shown across a range of modalities in different disorders, and which is the target of most current interventions. We also present evidence that excessive contingent responsiveness and excessive synchrony can develop in some circumstances. And we show that positive feedback interactions can develop, which are contingent but mutually amplificatory child–caregiver interactions that drive the child further from their critical state. We discuss implications of these findings for future intervention research, and directions for future work.

Authors: Sam Wass, Emily Greenwood, Giovanni Esposito, Celia Smith, Isil Necef, Emily Phillips

First published: 23 February 2024

https://doi.org/10.1111/jcpp.13960

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