UEL Baby Dev Lab

Entrainment to social world: disentangling the transition from co-regulation to self-regulation in the first 15 months of life.

Entrainment to social world: disentangling the transition from co-regulation to self-regulation in the first 15 months of life.

Marta Perapoch Amadó

Hello! I am Marta, a PhD student supervised by Prof. Sam Wass working on the ONACSA project funded by the European Research Council. 

My PhD focuses on the development of both emotion and attention regulation during the first 15 months of life. Over the course of development, children seem to become more stable in their affective and autonomic states and more capable to sustain and regulate their attention (1, 2). While this seems reasonable from a developmental point of view, there are some limitations, both theoretical and empirical, in the way we have built our understanding of the development of early regulatory skills. First, most of the research in regulation has taken place in laboratory-based settings and/or through parent report questionnaires (3, 4). Second, regulation has been mostly studied as a static construct and more effort is needed to adopt a more temporal and dynamic view (5). Third, very few research studies have considered self-regulation from a life-span developmental perspective (6). And forth, most of the existent research has treated the individual (infant) as their only unit of analysis (4, 7, 8).

To account for these limitations, in ONACSA, we are collecting real-world, naturalistic data with as little experimental interference as possible. 

In the lab, we collect brain and heart rate activity as well as behavioural data from mothers and their infants while they play together. This allows me to examine infants’ naturalistic attentional behaviours and explore intra as well as inter brain-brain as well as brain-behaviour associations.

A person and a baby

Description automatically generated with medium confidence

In the home, we are collecting naturalistic data on a variety of parameters such as heart rate, vocalisations, GPS, proximity between dyad members and activity levels. To do this, we have developed a wearable device that can be worn by infants as young as 5-month-old and can record continuous data for up to 10 hours. You can see more of it here: https://tinyurl.com/HomeDevice!! 

A picture containing text, electronics, charger, adapter

Description automatically generated
A picture containing text, different

Description automatically generated

With the home data, I aim to examine cross-lagged effects to look at bidirectional parent-infant influences as well as autoregressive effects to look at the stability in physiological states across the different timepoints. One hypothesis is that the greater autonomy that children achieve with age may contribute to a decline in the degree of parent–child influences. In doing so, we will also be the first ones to explore how physiological synchrony operates at different developmental timepoints and in various contexts!

Overall, I aim to disentangle whether our affective and attentional states become progressively less contingent on others over developmental time. 

If this sounds interesting to you, do not hesitate to get in touch – I will be happy to hear about you! My email is u2060511@uel.ac.uk 


  1. Colombo, J. (2000). The development of visual attention in infancy. Annual Review of Psychology, 52(1), 337–367. 
  2. Richards, 1997. The Development of Sustained Attention in Infants. Oakes & Tellinghuisen.
  3. Bell & Deater-Deckard, 2007. Biological Systems and the Development of Self-Regulation: Integrating Behavior, Genetics, and Psychophysiology. In Review Article (Vol. 28, Issue 5).
  4. Wass, S. V., Smith, C. G., Clackson, K., & Mirza, F. U. (2020). In infancy, it’s the extremes of arousal that are ‘sticky’: Naturalistic data challenge purely homeostatic approaches to studying self- regulation. Developmental Science. https://doi.org/10.1111/desc.13059
  5. Morales, S., Ram, N., Buss, K. A., Cole, P. M., Helm, J. L., & Chow, S. M. (2018). Age-related changes in the dynamics of fear-related regulation in early childhood. Developmental Science, 21(5). https://doi.org/10.1111/desc.12633
  6. Hendry, A., Jones, E. J. H., & Charman, T. (2016). Executive function in the first three years of life: Precursors, predictors and patterns. Developmental Review, 42, 1–33. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dr.2016.06.005
  7. Diamond, L. M., & Aspinwall, L. G. (2003). Emotion Regulation Across the Life Span: An Integrative Perspective Emphasizing Self-Regulation, Positive Affect, and Dyadic Processes. In Motivation and Emotion (Vol. 27, Issue 2). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1024521920068
  8. Fox, N., & Calkins, S. D. (2003). The Development of Self-Control of Emotion: Intrinsic and Extrinsic Influence. Motivation and Emotion, 27(1), 7–27. https://doi.org/10.1023/A