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Diaconu, I. (2009). The Influence of Late Adoption on Maltreated Children's Non-verbal Behaviour and Display of Affect. Rom. J. Psychoanal., 2:154-167.

(2009). Romanian Journal of Psychoanalysis, 2:154-167

The Influence of Late Adoption on Maltreated Children's Non-verbal Behaviour and Display of Affect

Iuliana Diaconu

1. Introduction

1.1 The Attachment System as a Regulating Factor: Affect Regulation in Maltreated Children

Different authors agree that affect regulation is a developmental process that depends on genetic (temperamental and developmental factors within the child), as well as on experiential factors, infant — caregiver relationship (Kopp, 1989; Sroufe, 1996; Schore, 1994). Genetic factors affect the infant's initial experience of affect, its intensity and duration, but also provide limits to the types of coping responses that may develop. When infants are faced with a particular type of caregiving, they learn through repetitive interactions to adapt their behaviour accordingly. When sensitive and attuned mother intuitively recognizes, puts into words her baby's feeling and tries to comfort the baby, she regulates his/her affect. The external regulation between the mother and baby becomes internalized in the infant's neural networks, which provide the basis for automatic patterns of activity and initially involve little cognitive mediation (Schore 1994). As the child develops, these networks should become more controlled by cognitive processes, but presumably retain an unconscious automatic character. The increased cognitive capacity enables the children to understand what has


1 University College London/The Anna Freud Centre, MSc in Psychoanalytic Developmental Psychology

2 Affect regulation ‘entails the capacity to control and modulate affective responses’ (Fonagy, Gergely, Jurist and Target, 2004, p. 66). According to the same authors, in psychoanalysis and attachment theory affect regulation is understood as a balance between positive and negative affect (p. 92).

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