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Fearlessness in Preschoolers: An Extreme End

of the Approach and Withdrawal


Temperamental Dimension

Inbal Kivenson Bar-On

A THESIS SUBMITTED FOR THE DEGREE


"DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY"

University of Haifa
Faculty of Education
Department of Counseling and Human Development

March, 2010

Fearlessness in Preschoolers: An Extreme End


of the Approach and Withdrawal
Temperamental Dimension
By: Inbal Kivenson Bar-On
Supervised by: Prof' Ofra Mayseless

A THESIS SUBMITTED FOR THE DEGREE


"DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY"

University of Haifa
Faculty of Education
Department of Counseling and Human Development

March, 2010

Recommended by: ______________________ Date________________


(Supervisor)
Approved by:

______________________ Date________________
(Chairperson of PhD committee)

Acknowledgements
This study grew out of my clinical work with young at-risk children. Within the
therapeutic space, both I and my supervisors often found ourselves with questions
about the group of children. Sometimes they did not seem to be reacting to the
therapy, or to experience any awe or fear in the face of various stimuli. Also, they
displayed daredevil behavior in comparison with their peers and even sever
aggression. As time went on, I looked for an empirical and systematic way of
understanding who these seemingly fearless children were. What characterizes them
and their social world, and how do they express morals and conscience, empathy and
aggression? This curiosity set in motion an uncharted and exciting journey second to
none, a journey that I shared with several significant people whom I would like to
thank.
This study would not have seen the light of day without the inspiration, wisdom
and insightfulness of Prof. Ofra Mayseless, my thesis supervisor. Ofra, from the very
moment you suggested that I undertake a personal investigative journey and that I
clarify for myself what the most interesting research subject is, and until the
completion of the study, your supervision was for me a source of great wisdom,
learning, and a shining example of comprehensive research thinking. Besides your
humane attitude, your great sensitivity, your ability to nurture intellectual and
behavioral autonomy, your ability to listen, your generosity and support in infinite
ways, I learned through you what the love of research means, the excitement of its
discoveries and its boldness. Without doubt, your significant presence is evident both
in the research and in the steps I have taken, in my life.
To Dr. Miri Scharf who has accompanied me from the beginning of my studies,
thank you for your strong support over the years, your concern and your
encouragement, freely given and with no strings attached. Thank you for reading my
doctoral proposal at the initial stages and for your wise, illuminating, and incisive
comments.
Thanks to Dr. Yossi Guterman who at the thesis-proposal stage assisted me in
understanding the use of psychological measuring tools, and who made an important
contribution to the research design.
Thanks to the academic staff of the observations laboratory, Prof. Anat Scher,
Prof. Hadas Weisman, Dr. Miri Scharf and Prof. Ofra Mayseless for giving me the
opportunity to use the laboratory, for your concern and for your willingness to
renovate and adapt the laboratory for research on children.
Thanks to Prof. Moshe Zeidner who assisted financially with the purchase of
measurement tools for identifying emotions, and who thereby contributed to enabling
me to undertake an important aspect of my research.
Special thanks to the team of students who devoted their valuable time to working
with me during the cold winter days and the searing summer heat: Ofri, Avivit,
Meital, and especially Lera Levin for her praiseworthy devotion to the research and
her massive investment of time.

Personal and heartfelt thanks to my husband, Oren, for the many days of
emotional, spiritual and material support, and to my dearest children, Ofri and
Ma'ayan, who were born into a reality of doctoral work and who taught me about the
boldness of conducting research while at the same time raising small children. But
mainly, they showed me how happy I am and how overjoyed I am to be their mother.
Thanks to my dear mother, for her emotional and spiritual presence throughout
this special journey, for her constant support and assistance in taking care of the
children and the home. Thanks to Ya'akov and Gila for their wonderful support and
for the many hours of babysitting that they did so wholeheartedly, joyfully and out of
love for their grandchildren. And thanks as well to the rest of the family who shared
the difficulties and the joy and gave as much support as they could.
Thanks to my dear friends who accompanied me on the journey: Dr. Michal BatOr and Sophi Barzilay, for being a source of light and driving energy, for their close,
generous and helpful presence in clarifying and fine-tuning the issues relevant to the
research.
Thanks to my personal friends: Irit Kupperman, Smadar Romano, Galit Ophir,
Sharon Shiran, Dorit Bar-David and Ruti Ganon for years of support, love and
encouragement.
Many thanks to the University of Haifa and the Graduate Studies Authority for
granting me a stipend for the first three years. This economic support gave me the
freedom to devote myself fully to promoting the research.
A big thank you to The Israel Foundations Trustees (I.F.T) Research grant for
doctoral candidates in the social sciences, 2005/2006 (Doctoral grant No. 27), which
contributed significantly to advancing the research.
A final, special thank you to the children and their parents who participated in the
research, who made their way to the university in wet or very hot conditions, who
were prepared to forego the swimming pool or their usual activities, and were willing
to reveal a little of their world to us. Thank you for allowing us to learn through you
what fearlessness is and how it is represented in early childhood.
Inbal Kivenson Bar-On

Fearlessness in Preschoolers: An Extreme End of the


Approach and Withdrawal Temperamental Dimension
Inbal Kivenson Bar-On
Abstract
Introduction: The present study focused on the approach and withdrawal
temperamental dimension, one of the major dimensions of temperament. Approach
and withdrawal behaviors are central to the survival and adaptability of individuals
since they reflect the human capacity to strike a balance between withdrawing from
unfamiliar and potentially dangerous stimuli and approaching new stimuli, exploring
these stimuli, and acquiring new skills and information (Thomas, Chess & Birch,
1968). Most studies on individual differences in the approach and withdrawal
behaviors among infants and children have focused on one end of this dimension:
withdrawal or inhibited behavior (Kagan, Reznick, Snidman, Gibbons & Johnson,
1988).
In the present study we focused on the other extreme end of the approach and
withdrawal continuum, namely fearlessness, which we examined among preschoolers.
The present study examined fearlessness as reflecting a temperamental tendency and
in addition examined various socio-emotional characteristics that could be associated
with fearlessness among preschool children aged 3-4 years.
Accordingly, the present study has three objectives: (1) to identify behavioral
fearlessness in preschoolers and examine its consistency across reporters (mother,
father, preschool teacher) and across contexts (preschool, home, and laboratory), as
well as its stability over time (two assessments spaced one year apart); (2) to identify

some of the physiological predispositions underlying fearless behavior; and (3) to


assess socio-emotional characteristics associated with this tendency.
The conceptual basis for the present study relates to the operation of two
behavioral systems: fear and exploration (Gray, 1976; Schneirla, 1959; Zuckerman,
1990). The main function of the fear system is to alert the organism to potential
danger, which is reflected in an increase in heart rate and activation of the
sympathetic system, whereas the exploration system motivates approach behaviors to
the surrounding environment and activates the parasympathetic system, which is
reflected by the slowing of heart-rate (Gullone, 1992; Ollendick, 1983). Imbalance
between the two systems can have several problematic consequences. Over-activation
of the fear system (i.e., inhibition) can result in deficiencies in acquiring important
adaptive knowledge and skills, thus placing the individual at a disadvantage when
confronted by physical, social, and emotional challenges. Under-activation of the fear
system (i.e., fearlessness) can lead to dangerous situations and risky behaviors,
placing the individual at heightened risk of injury or even death and initiating
aggressive and delinquent behaviors (Quay, 1993).
The behavioral manifestations of fearlessness partially reflect several
physiological predispositions that can potentially be assessed using physiological
measures. Various researchers reported that low resting heart rates and high levels of
heart rate variability (standard deviation of all interbeat intervals) are correlated with
approach behaviors and interest expressions among infants and reflect the operation
of the parasympathetic system (Field, Woodson, Greenberg & Cohen, 1982; Fox,
Henderson, Marshall, Nichols & Ghera, 2005). We expected fearlessness to be
correlated negatively with lower resting heart rates, and positively with higher heart
rate variability.

Children who are characterized by under-arousal of the fear system may not be
as distressed as other children when confronted with an actual or potential
wrongdoing or with a failure to comply (Kochanska, Aksan & Joy, 2007). Kochanska
(1993) and Blair (1999) both suggested that a behaviorally uninhibited temperament
may place a child at risk of failing to attend to some of the early precursors of
empathic concern involving emotional arousal evoked by the misfortune or distress of
others. Fearlessness may also make a child relatively insensitive to the prohibitions
and sanctions of parents and other socializing agents (Kochanska & Askan, 2007). In
the present study we therefore examined several socio-emotional characteristics
relevant to the development of conscience. These included recognition of emotional
expressions

(e.g.,

fearful

expressions),

empathy

and

pro-social

behavior,

aggressiveness, antisocial tendency, and sociability.


Specifically, children characterized by under-arousal of the autonomic system
can be at risk for impaired ability to recognize emotional distress cues displayed by
others (Blair, 1997, 1999). A fearless child may need stronger distress cues to activate
the autonomic system, resulting in a reduced ability to identify distress signals in
others. Similarly, children who are less physiologically reactive to threatening and
emotionally distressing stimuli, such as fearful facial expressions (LeDoux, 1995),
make more mistakes in recognizing these facial expressions (Blair, Mitchell,
Peschardt, Colledge, Leonard, Shine, Murray & Perrett, 2004). Hence, it was expected
that fearlessness would be associated with a lowered capacity to recognize distress
emotions such as fearful facial expressions.
Since fearlessness may be associated with a lower capacity to perceive and
identify the distress of others, it may also be associated with a lower degree of
empathy toward others. Empathy is an emotional reaction based on understanding and

even identifying with the emotional state or condition of another person. Empathic
concern involves actually experiencing emotional arousal evoked by the misfortune
and distress of others (Kochanska, 1993, 1997; Kochanska & Murray, 2000).
Fearlessness may be associated with lower levels of empathy because the fearless
person does not recognize distress signals.
The ability to experience and express empathy has been associated with a
greater frequency of pro-social behaviors reflecting voluntary behavior intended to
benefit others (De Waal, 2008; Eisenberg & Fabes, 1990). Prosocial behavior includes
behavioral efforts to alleviate the distress of the other and to actively and intentionally
assist others (Eisenberg & Fabes, 1998). Such behavior reflects a mature cognitive
understanding of rules, norms, and moral issues and the capacity to focus on the other
rather than on the self or on the environment. Because fearlessness is expected to
involve difficulty internalizing such rules and expectations and to be associated with
lower levels of empathy or arousal due to the distress of others, we expected
fearlessness to be associated also with lower levels of prosocial behavior.
The literature on temperament and genetic factors commonly attributes
aggressive behaviors, at least in older children and adults, to a characteristic underarousal that can be indexed physiologically (Raine, Venables & Mednick, 1997).
Specifically, relatively low resting heart rates, indicative of low arousal and underactivation of the fear system, have been associated with aggression and violent
behavior in children and young adolescents (Raine, 2002; Raine & Jones, 1987).
Thus, we expected that fearlessness would be correlated with aggressive behavior.
In the literature on temperament, however, several indicators of fearlessness,
such as low behavioral inhibition (Kagan & Snidman, 1991), low levels of fear
(Rothbart & Bates, 2006), and lack of sensitivity to punishment (Kochanska & Askan,

2007), were associated not only with general aggressiveness but with distinct and
severe forms of proactive aggressive behavior and specifically with severe antisocial
tendencies. In particular, such aggressiveness is characterized by callous-unemotional
(CU) traits (see Frick & White, 2008), which refer to a response style marked by
specific affective (e.g., lacking guilt and empathy, constricted display of emotion) and
interpersonal (e.g. failure to show empathy, use of others for one's own gain)
attributes (Frick, Cornell, Barry, Bodin & Dane, 2003). Consequently, we also
expected that fearlessness, even in young children, would be associated not only with
higher aggressiveness in general but also with these more severe, antisocial
tendencies.
Fearless behavior does not necessarily forecast negative consequences only. A
strong tendency to approach others, even strangers, coupled with a lowered tendency
to experience wariness and distress may be reflected in higher sociability and positive
affect. For example, a recent large-scale study included a category of "confident
children" that described 3-year-olds who were zealous, more likely to adjust to the
testing situation, exceptionally friendly, and eager to explore the testing material
(Caspi, Harrington, Milne, Amell, Theodore & Moffitt, 2003). Thus, we expected that
fearlessness would be associated with higher sociability.
In sum, the research hypotheses were: Hypothesis 1: We expected the various
indicators of behavioral fearlessness to be moderately interrelated and consistent
across types of stimuli (e.g., motor, auditory, social), reporters (mother, father and
preschool teacher), contexts (e.g., preschool, home, and laboratory), and stable over
time (two assessments, one year apart). Hypothesis 2: We expected fearlessness to be
correlated negatively with lower resting heart rates and positively with higher heart
rate variability. Hypothesis 3: We expected fearlessness to be associated with a

lowered capacity to recognize emotional expressions of distress, such as fearful facial


expression; lower levels of empathy and prosocial behavior; higher levels of
aggressiveness and severe antisocial tendencies; and higher sociability.
Method: The research sample included 80 pre-school (49 boys and 31 girls)
ranging in age from three to three-and-a-half years old, their parents, and the
children's preschool teachers. In selecting our sample we followed Kagan's procedures
of identifying inhibited children (Garcia-Coll, Kagan & Reznick, 1984; Kagan &
Snidman, 1991). Specifically, to ensure that the research sample included a large
enough group of children (25 to 30 children) who potentially show high fearlessness,
we used a screening procedure that was based on mothers' and preschool teachers'
reports. Preschool teachers completed a screening questionnaire (BIS; Frick, 2001a)
that identifies children characterized by high fearless behavior (e.g., "This child
enjoys fireworks and other things that make a loud noise", "This child likes to touch
bugs and snakes").This screening questionnaire was also administrated to those
mothers who agreed to participate in the research. Based on the mothers' and
preschool teachers' general score regarding fearlessness, we choose children who
were characterized by highly fearless behaviors. The other children were chosen
randomly from the group of families who agreed to participate in the study and had
lower scores on the short form of the BIS.
The present study incorporated parental and preschool teacher reports as well
as two laboratory procedures spaced one year apart. At Time 1, parents (mother and
father) and preschool teachers reported on the child's fearlessness tendencies (Frick,
2001a), pro-social behavior (Ladd & Profilet, 1996), aggressiveness (Achenbach,
1991, 1992), antisocial tendencies (Frick & Hare, 2001), and sociability (Ladd &
Profilet, 1996). Parents were also asked to complete a background questionnaire

(SES, birth order, stressful events) and other scales related to potential intervening
variables such as parental well-being (Beck, Steer & Brown, 1996 ; Veit & Ware,
1983), parenting practices (Robinson, Mandleco, Olsen & Hart, 2001), and child's
hyperactivity and impulsiveness (Conners, Sitarenios, Parker & Epstein, 1998). The
laboratory procedure conducted at Time 1 examined behavioral and physiological
aspects of fearlessness, emotional recognition, empathy, and prosocial behavior, and
evaluated the child's normal development (Frankenburg, Fandal & Thornton, 1987).
At Time 2, forty-three mothers and children (21 children from the top third of the
entire sample based on the general score of fearlessness and 22 children from the
medium third of the entire sample based on the same general score of fearlessness)
were invited back to the laboratory to reevaluate fearlessness, emotional recognition,
and empathy. Parents also reported on the child's fearlessness tendencies (Frick,
2001a) and the experience of stressful events that may have occurred since Time 1
(Goodman, Corcoran, Turner, Yuan & Green, 1998).
Results: Fearlessness, namely the tendency to approach rather than be
inhibited in the face of fear-eliciting stimuli in a number of contexts (preschool,
home,

and

laboratory)

appeared

to

be

similarly

identified

by

different

observers/sources (preschool teacher, mother, father, laboratory observation) and in


different contexts (preschool, home and laboratory) ( r = .53** r = .75**), and to
be stable over time (one year interval) (r = .21* r = .43**) . These similarities
across the different contexts and sources reinforce our assumption that fearlessness is
a consistent behavior that can be recognized by different sources in different contexts
of young children's lives. In addition, the moderate to high stability of fearless
behavior over a one-year period indicates the stable nature of this behavior. Such
stability can be attributed to the continuity of strong approach behavior in the face of

fear-eliciting stimuli during early childhood which is independent of the issue of the
stability of fearful or inhibited behavior, which was addressed by other researchers
(Kagan, 2008).
Regarding our second goal to investigate whether fearlessness is associated
with lower resting heart rates and higher heart rate variability, results were partly
corroborated. Due to various problems in the administration of physiological
assessment (e.g. children's resistance to wearing the electrodes) we succeeded in
obtaining 50 physiological records. For some of the indicators, fearlessness was
associated with lower resting heart rates and higher heart rate variability. The few
significant correlations that emerged were fairly small, although all were in the
hypothesized directions. Furthermore, all of the non-significant correlations were also
in the predicted directions.
Regarding our third goal to investigate socio-emotional characteristics that
might be associated with fearlessness, we found that fearlessness was significantly
associated with more errors in recognizing fearful facial expressions at Time 1. These
findings were replicated at Time 2. Our findings replicate results from previous
studies with adults (Blair, Jones, Clark & Smith, 1997) and with young offenders
(Blair, Colledge, Murray & Mitchell, 2001), showing that fearless temperament
characterized by reduced autonomic responses to fearful expressions, particularly in
childhood, is related to an impaired cognitive ability to recognize such expressions.
As expected, in the present study fearlessness was associated negatively with empathy
and pro-social behavior at Time 1 and at Time 2, as assessed by questionnaires,
observations, and projective instruments. These findings may be important since they
provide some support to the notion that a tendency toward diminished feelings of
empathy and prosocial behavior is one of the characteristics of fearlessness.

As expected, in the present study fearlessness was associated positively with


aggressiveness and severe antisocial tendency at Time 1. Our results support the
findings of previous studies (Shaw, Gilliom, Ingoldsby & Nagin, 2003), suggesting
that fearless temperament might be a risk factor for the development of aggression
and antisocial tendency in young children, and even in very young children, and
should be considered in interventions with aggressive preschool children (Frick,
2001b). An interesting aspect of this study, which was in fact predicted from research
on young adolescence that found that positive affect is related to uninhibited behavior
(Loney, Bulter & Lima, 2006), was that fearlessness was strongly associated with
sociability (Stifner, Fox & Porges, 1989). SES, gender and other demographic
variables, as well as parenting variables, were not associated with fearlessness. In
addition, the findings persisted after controlling for hyperactivity and impulsivity.
Discussion: The current results suggest that the construct of fearlessness is
associated with numerous socio-emotional outcomes. Our findings help unravel the
complexity of fearlessness and shed some light on possible early-life developmental
processes. Specifically, our findings demonstrate that fearlessness is associated with
high sociability but also with low empathy and pro-social behavior. These findings
suggest that these variables represent different constructs although they relate to
similar behavioral manifestations reflecting interpersonal closeness. Furthermore, and
consistent with other studies, our results suggest that fearlessness may be a risk factor
for developing aggressiveness and antisocial tendencies even at a very young age
(Frick et al., 2000). These findings suggest that fearlessness in preschool constitutes a
clear risk factor for developmental pathways that lead to problems in morality,
conscience development, and severe antisocial behaviors. With preliminary findings
pointing in the direction of underlying physiological mechanisms and possibly genetic

factors, these findings are even more alarming since they might imply that
fearlessness is related to neurological and genetic predisposition and therefore might
be more resistant to educational processes and clinical interventions. Future research
using larger samples and longitudinal research designs is needed to corroborate our
findings. If such support is found, we will be better equipped to suggest interventions
for coping with different patterns of emotional arousal related to long-term violence
and antisocial acts. Clinical and educational applications of the construct of
fearlessness clearly require more research to fully evaluate their potential clinical use
among young children.
The findings of the current study must be interpreted in the context of several
limitations. First, the sample size was relatively small, possibly reducing the ability to
find/strength in finding significant associations. In the present study we sampled
normal children and functioning families. It is possible that the percentage of fearless
children in clinical samples will be higher. A larger sample and different sampling
methods may be needed, particularly since high levels of fearlessness are not highly
prevalent in normal samples. Generalizations must therefore be treated with some
degree of caution. Further, gender did not moderate any of the effects reported in the
present study. These findings is similar to the one reported by kagan and his
colleagues (Garcia Coill, Kagan, & Reznick, 1984; Kagan, Reznick, Clarke, Snidman
& Garcia-Coll, 1984) regarding the inhibited end of the approach and withdrawal
temperament dimension. Still, gender may affect the way fearlessness and its
vicissitudes will develop later in life. Future research may need to address this
possibility.
Nevertheless, the current study provides a basis for further research into the
relations between this temperamental dimension and other socio-emotional constructs.

Table of Contents
Abstract.. IV
List of Tables.
XVI
Chapter 1: Theoretical Background .....................................................................
1.1 Introduction
1.2 Temperament.....
1.3 Approach and Withdrawal Temperamental Dimension.
1.4 The Study of Withdrawal or Inhibited Behavior...
1.5 Focusing on the 'Approach' End of the Approach and Withdrawal
Temperamental Dimension
The distinction between low levels of inhibition and fearlessness
Examination of fearlessness in preschool years
1.6 Understanding Fearlessness...
Behavioral Manifestations
Physiological/neurological predispositions
Socio-Emotional Characteristics
Recognition of Emotional Expression
Empathy and Prosocial Behavior...
Aggressiveness and Antisocial Tendency..
Sociability
1.7 Research Hypothesis..
Chapter 2: Method
2.1 Overview
2.2 Participants.
2.3 Procedure...
Sample Selection and Recruitment of Participants
Time 1 Lab procedure..
Time 2 Lab procedure..
2.4 Measures
Assessment of Fearlessness.
Behavioral Inhibition Scale
Behavioral Assessment...
Physiological Assessment..
Assessment of Recognition of Emotional Expression.
Assessment of Empathy..
Assessment of Prosocial Behavior...
Assessment of Aggressiveness and Severe Antisocial Tendency
Assessment of Intervening Variables...
Demographic and Background Information...
Assessment of Temperament.
Assessment of Impulsivity and Hyperactivity
Assessment of Parental Practice and Well-Being...
Chapter 3: Results
3.1 Overview of Statistical Analyses...
3.2 Fearlessness: Examination of Consistency across Stimuli, Context and
Consistency across Time...........

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3.3 Examination of Physiological Variables


3.4 Examination of Emotion Expression Recognition..................................
3.5 Socio-Emotional Characteristics
Empathy and Prosocial Behavior.
Aggressiveness and severe antisocial tendency...
Sociability
3.6 Time 1- Comparing Three Groups of Fearlessness (high, moderate, low)
3.7 Time 2 Comparison of High and Moderate Fearlessness...
3.8 Intervening Variables.........
Demographic, Bacground Information and Parenting
Variables.
Temperament...
Hyperactivity and Impulsivity...
3.9 Results Summary...
Chapter 4: Discussion.
4.1 Introduction
4.2 Fearless Behavior...
4.3 Fearlessness and Physiological Responses
4.4 Fearlessness and Socio-Emotional Characteristics
Emotion Expression Recognition.
Empathy and Prosocial Behavior.
Aggressievness and Antisocial Behavior.
Sociability.
Conclusions and Implications..
4.5 Strengths and Limitations..
Fearlessness Assessment and Construct Validation
Socio-Emotional Charecteristics..
Limitations
4.6 Clinical Implications..
4.7 Future research...
References.
Appendix A: Screening Questionnaire for Preschool Teacher ..
Appendix B: Behavioral Inhibition Scale for Parents .........
Appendix C: Pilot Study
Appendix D: Consent Form .....................................

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Appendix E: Coding index of the Empathy and Moral Dilemmas Stories


Appendix F: Time 1 Preschool Teacher Questionnaires
Time 1 Parent's Questionnaires.

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List of Tables
Table 1

Table 2
Table 3
Table 4
Table 5
Table 6

Table 7

Table 8
Table 9
Table 10

Pearson Correlations among the Different Indicators of


Fearlessness (motor, visual, social and auditory) Assessed in
the Laboratory Procedure at Time 1........................

66

Pearson Correlations between Indicators of Fearlessness at


Time 1.....

67

Pearson Correlations between Indicators of Fearlessness at


Time 1 and Time.....

68

Pearson Correlations between Indicators of Fearlessness and


Heart Rate Variables at Time 1...

96

Pearson Correlations between Indicators of Fearlessness at


Time 1 and Emotion Expression Recognition at Time 1....

71

Pearson Correlations between Indicators of Fearlessness at


Time 1 and Recognition of Distress (Fear) Emotions at Time
2

72

Pearson Correlations between Fearlessness and Indicators of


Empathy and Prosocial Behavior at Time 1 and Empathy at
Time 2..

73

Pearson Correlations between Indicators of Fearlessness at


Time 1 and Antisocial Tendency and Aggressiveness at Time 1

75

Pearson Correlations between Indicators of Fearlessness at


Time 1 and Social Variables at Time 1...

76

Differences between High, Moderate and Low Fearlessness

Table 11
Table 12
Table 13

Groups on Socio-Emotional Characteristics at Time1

79

Differences between High, and Moderate Fearlessness Groups


on Socio-Emotional Characteristics at Time 2

81

Pearson Correlations between Fearlessness indicators at Time 1


and Temperamental Dimensions..

83

Hierarchical Regression Analyses: Prediction of SocioEmotional Characteristics at Time 1 with Background,


Impulsivity, Hyperactivity and Fearlessness...

87

Chapter 1: Theoretical Background


1.1 Introduction
The past few decades have witnessed increased recognition of the importance
of constitutional variations that moderate the effects of the environment upon the
individual (Rothbart, & Bates, 2006). In the realm of personality and developmental
psychology, the notion of temperament has come to represent the nature side of the
nature/nurture dichotomy. Despite long-standing controversy over the definition of
temperament, a consensus is emerging that the term temperament refers to
constitutionally based differences in behavioral style that are visible from the childs
earliest years. Specifically, temperament refers to individual differences in emotional,
motor and attentional reactivity to stimulation, and to patterns of behavioral and
attentional self-regulation (Sanson, Hemphill, & Smart, 2002). Several studies have
now documented the stability of temperamental behavioral tendencies from early
childhood through adulthood, and researchers have recently begun to uncover the
genetic, neurological, and physiological underpinnings of these predispositions
(Martin, & Fox, 2006; Wachs, & Bates, in press). These studies in part reflect a
paradigm shift from a predominantly environmentalist, unidirectional perspective on

child development to one that acknowledges the childs own active role in the
developmental process. From the outset, research on temperament has been atypical
in that it focused explicitly on children's contribution to their own development (for
review see Schaffer, 1999).
This research focused on the approach and withdrawal temperamental
dimension, one of the major dimensions of temperament. Approach and withdrawal
behaviors are central to the survival and adaptability of individuals. Such behaviors
reflect the human capacity to balance between withdrawing from unfamiliar and
potentially dangerous stimuli and approaching new stimuli, to explore these stimuli,
and to acquire new skills and information. Most studies of individual differences in
approach and withdrawal behaviors among infants and children have focused on one
end of this dimension: withdrawal or inhibited behavior. In the present study we
focused on the other extreme end of the approach and withdrawal continuum, namely
fearlessness, which we examined among preschoolers.
Our goals were: (1) to identify behaviorally fearless preschoolers; (2) to
examine whether this tendency is stable across reporters, situations and time; (3) to
highlight some of the physiological

predispositions underlying this behavioral

tendency; and (4) to identify socio-emotional characteristics of behaviorally fearless


children.
1.2 Temperament
The concept of temperament refers to innate individual differences that reflect
biologically- and genetically-based biases toward experiences and expressions of
certain emotions (Martin, & Fox, 2006; Shiner, 1998). Individual differences in
temperament tend to appear early in life and can be identified when the infant is only
2-3 months old (Kagan, 2008; Rothbart & Bates, 2006; Thomas, Chess, & Birch,

1968). Despite longstanding controversy over the definition of temperament, the


emerging consensus is that the term temperament refers to constitutionally based
differences in behavioral style that are visible from the childs earliest years. These
mostly reflect individual differences in emotional, motor and attentional reactivity to
stimulation, and patterns of behavioral and attentional self-regulation (Sanson,
Hemphill & Smart, 2002).
In a pioneering study almost four decades ago, Thomas and Chess (1977)
conducted one of the first longitudinal studies of infant temperament. On the basis of
parental interviews, which included detailed information about infant patterns of
reaction across a wide variety of situations, they posited nine temperamental
dimensions on which infants and young children could be observed to differ, which
described their characteristic style of response across contexts, and which impacted
their subsequent psychosocial development (Thomas, Chess, Birch, Hertzig, & Korn,
1963). The dimensions included activity level, rhythmicity (sleep and eating),
approach and withdrawal toward new situations, adaptability, threshold of response to
stimulation, intensity of response, predominant mood, distractibility, and attentionspan persistence.
The work of Thomas and Chess (1977) paved the way for extensive research
that expanded the study of temperament conceptually and methodologically (Shiner &
Caspi, 2003). Yet concerns about conceptual overlap among scales and low internal
consistency have led to empirically and theoretically based conceptual refinements
(Rothbart, 2004; Rothbart & Bates, 2006). The term temperament itself has been
interpreted and defined differently over the years. For example, unlike Thomas and
Chess's emphasis on the stylistic component of behavior, Buss and Plomin (1975)
emphasized the stability of the evolutionary-genetic aspects of temperament and

proposed only four dimensions: emotionality, activity, sociability, and impulsivity.


Later, Rothbart and Derryberry (1981) posited a psychobiological theory of
temperament and suggested a three-category distinction: extroversion, negative affect,
and inhibitory control.
Among the various theoretical and empirical notions concerned with
temperament, three broad dimensions of temperament have gained wide acceptance
(Shiner, & Caspi, 2003). The first is Reactivity or Negative Emotionality, which refers
to irritability, negative mood and highly intense negative reactions. This dimension
can be further differentiated into distress to limitations (irritability, anger) and distress
to novelty (fearfulness). The second dimension of Self-Regulation has two
subcomponents: the effortful control of attention (e.g. persistence, nondistractibility)
and of emotions (e.g. self-soothing). The third dimension, variously labeled as
Approach-Withdrawal, Inhibition, or Sociability, describes the tendency to approach
novel situations and people or conversely to withdraw and be wary (Sanson,
Hemphill, & Smart, 2004).
A wide variety of instruments have been developed to assess temperament in
infants and young children (Goldsmith & Rieser-Danner, 1988). For the most part,
temperamental characteristics have been assessed by parents reports and by ratings of
behavioral observations (Buss & Plomin, 1984; Carey & McDevitt, 1989; Kagan,
1984; Peters-Martin & Wachs, 1985; Rothbart & Derryberry, 1981). In line with the
conceptualization of temperament as biologically driven, a variety of physiological
assessments have been found to correspond to observations and questionnaire ratings
(Hubert, Wachs, Peters-Martin & Gandour, 1982). For example, Kagan found that
children identified as inhibited by behavioral observation are characterized by greater
reactivation of the sympathetic system, more rapid heart rate and lower heart rate

variability compared to non-inhibited children (Kagan, Kearsley & Zelazo, 1978;


Kagan, Snidman & Arcus, 1998).
The growing number of studies focusing on temperament provided strong
support for the validity and reliability of its assessment (Bates, 1986; Buss & Plomin,
1984; Goldsmith & Campos, 1990; Gray, 1982; Rimm-Kaufman, & Kagan, 2005;
Rothbart & Derryberry, 1981; Rothbart & Goldsmith, 1985). For example, studies
have found positive correlations between laboratory observations concerning child
temperamental dimensions, parental reports about child behavior (Bates &
McFayden-Ketchum, 2000), and physiological reactions toward stimuli (see a review
by Fox & Henderson, 1999). Furthermore, these studies provided consistent evidence
for the stability of several temperamental dimensions from infancy to childhood, such
as activity level, irritable distress, attention, and social inhibition (see review by
Shiner & Caspi, 2003).
1.3 Approach and Withdrawal Temperamental Dimension
One of the major and most extensively studied temperamental dimensions
relates to the proclivity either to approach or to withdraw from novel or intense
objects, circumstances, and persons (Asendorpf, 1994; Fox, Henderson, Nichols, &
Ghera, 2005; Hinde, Stevenson-Hinde, & Tamplin, 1985; Kagan, 1996; Thomas,
Chess, & Birch, 1968; Thompson, & Lamb, 1982). A strong tendency to approach is
manifested in a child's remaining calm and easygoing when encountering unfamiliar
persons or moderately threatening situations and in a greater degree of sociability and
bold behavior when facing a new place or a challenging situation. In contrast,
withdrawal behavior is demonstrated by a child's fearful expressions, and also by
crying, shying away and cautious behaviors, at least during initial interactions in
novel or challenging situations or with unfamiliar people.

One of the reasons the approach and withdrawal dimension is so fundamental


is related to the relevance of this dimension to individual survival. Approach and
withdrawal behaviors have a direct bearing on individuals potential survival with
respect to their need to be protected, as well as to their capacity to acquire adaptive
skills and to learn to relate and interact with others. Specifically, when individuals
face potentially dangerous stimuli (e.g., those that are unfamiliar and new) they need
protective strategies such as caution and withdrawal behavior to increase their
chances of survival. However, when non-dangerous conditions exist, individuals need
to approach the surrounding environment and the new stimuli in order to socialize, to
gain food or other needed resources, and to acquire essential skills and information
that could enable them to tackle various challenges and opportunities in life
successfully (Gullone, 1992; Ollendick, 1983). Novel or highly intense stimuli
concurrently arouse two opposing propensities. One is the tendency to withdraw from
or to be wary of unfamiliar and potentially dangerous stimuli. The other involves
interest and a tendency to approach and explore the stimuli. Survival and adaptability
reflect individuals capacity to balance these opposing tendencies and to identify nonrisky conditions that can afford opportunities to socialize and learn new information
and skills as well as risk conditions that need to be avoided.
Studies of animal behavior provided evidence that this dimension is important
for other organisms as well. Schnierla (1959) studied this issue, claiming that the
behavior of nearly every animal, from amoebae to humans, can be organized around
this dimension. In his view, stimulus intensity is crucial in organizing responses to
unfamiliar stimuli. Animals are seen as possessing an innate desire to learn, which
leads them to approach novel stimuli of low and non-aversive intensity but to
withdraw when the intensity of the stimulus becomes threatening. As in human

research, animal research revealed individual differences in the likelihood of


exhibiting either approach or avoidance behaviors among several mammals, including
dogs (Scott & Fuller, 1965), cats (Adamec, 1991), and primates (Suomi, 1986). Thus,
the approach and withdrawal dimension reflects a central behavioral aspect that seems
to serve a very significant evolutionary purpose for animals and humans alike.
Accordingly, the approach and withdrawal dimension has been included in
each of the three well-known longitudinal studies in this domain: (1) The Fels
longitudinal study conducted by Kagan and Moss (1962); (2) the New York
longitudinal study headed by Thomas and Chess (1977); and (3) the longitudinal
study in New Zealand headed by Caspi and Silva (1995). Investigators have reported
modest stability along this temperamental dimension from early childhood to
adolescence (Asendorpf, 1990; Lambert, Stattin & Clackenberg-Larsson, 1994). For
example, in the Fels longitudinal study (Kagan & Moss, 1962), shy and timid
behavior was identified as a temperamental quality that remains fairly stable from age
3 through early adulthood.
In sum, the approach and withdrawal behavioral dimension reflects a
temperament trait of unique value to the individual's adaptability and survival.
Research in this domain has succeeded in developing valid and reliable measures that
can identify this trait behaviorally. This research has also demonstrated the stability of
this trait from infancy through adolescence (Broberg, Lamb & Hwang, 1990; Kagan
& Fox, 2006; Kagan, Reznick, Snidman, Gibbons & Johnson, 1988).
Several perspectives have been offered to highlight the mechanisms
underlying the behavioral approach and withdrawal dimension. Neurological theories
of motivation based on research from a variety of sources typically posit two basic
systems, situated in separate centers of the brain, which control motor approach and

inhibition. The best known of these theories is Gray's (1976, 1982) behavioral theory
of motivation. This theory presumes the existence of two separate systems that
interact to shape emotional behavior. The appetitive motivational system or Behavior
Activation System (BAS) (Fowles, 1980; Gray, 1982) motivates behavior towards
positive incentives and activates seeking behavior towards arousing activities. The
Behavioral Inhibition System (BIS) organizes behavior by inhibition of the appetitive
approach to stimuli signaling punishment or non-reward.
The functions of the BAS and the BIS resemble two types of
physiological/neurological reactions underlying approach and withdrawal: orienting
reflex and defensive reflex. According to Sokolov (1963) and Graham (1979), the
orienting reflex involves responses that enhance sensitivity to external stimuli and
lead to efforts to understand the source and nature of a discrepant stimulus, whereas
the defensive reflex is characterized by responses that reduce sensitivity and lead to a
postural shift away from the stimuli. The BAS and the orienting reflex have similar
roles: to identify attractive stimuli and to enhance the organism sensitivity to the
stimulation. In contrast, the BIS and the defensive reflex operate to alert individuals
about unfavorable stimuli so as to inhibit approach behavior and avoid non-rewarding
and detrimental consequences.
A similar conception regarding the approach and withdrawal temperamental
dimension that provided the conceptual basis for the present study relates to the
operation of two behavioral systems: fear and exploration (Gray, 1976; Schneirla,
1959; Zuckerman, 1990). The behavioral system of fear is similar to the BIS and the
defensive reflex, while the behavioral system of exploration resembles the BAS and
the orienting reflex. The term behavioral system refers to a motivational system that
serves important evolutionary and adaptive purposes. This control system works using

a feedback loop in which behaviors are chosen and then activated or changed using
various alternative plans to achieve specific set goals. Both fear and exploration are
considered behavioral systems with an adaptive evolutionary purpose (Bowlby,
1969).
Fear involves a complex reaction to a specific stimulus perceived by an
individual as threatening. It is a complex reaction in that it typically encompasses
three types of responses: behavioral expression (e.g., avoidance of the feared
stimulus), physiological arousal, and emotional distress (Marks, 1987). Behaviorally,
fear is expressed in an individual's postural shift away from the stimulus.
Physiological arousal is manifested in an increased heart rate (Graham, 1979;
Sokolov, 1963). Cardiac acceleration is associated with rejection of sensory input
(Lacey, 1959; Lacey, Kagan, Lacey, & Moss, 1963) and thus may contribute to
withdrawal from frightening stimuli. The main aim of the fear system is to alert the
organism about potential danger. Activation of this system will motivate an individual
to use protection strategies, in most cases withdrawal, that eventually increase the
individual's chances of survival.
When the fear system is relatively calm and non-alarming conditions prevail,
the exploration system can be more predominant. In such situations, the individual can
be more attuned to exploring the surrounding environment and will be able to
approach physically varied stimuli and acquire essential survival skills (Gullone,
1992; Ollendick, 1983). Furthermore, not only does the exploration system respond to
external stimulus, but it also has an intrinsic proactive part that drives a proactive
search of new and exciting stimuli. In terms of physiological manifestation, the
activation of the exploration system is reflected in a prolonged (2-4 sec) heart rate
decrease (Sokolov, 1963). Heart rate deceleration is assumed to facilitate sensory

intake and thus facilitate approaching and examining new stimuli. The main aim of
the exploration system is to alert the organism about potentially interesting and
instructive stimuli that are safe to explore. Activation of this system will motivate the
individual to use exploration strategies, in most cases approach behavior and gestures
of interest that may also be reflected in positive affect, enjoyment and selfsatisfaction.
Despite the distinct nature of each of these systems, the fear and exploration
systems work in concert, thus serving an adaptive role. An adequate balance between
these two systems promotes survival and the growth of capacities to deal with
developmental tasks and social challenges. Imbalance between the two systems can
have several problematic consequences. Under-activation of the fear system at the
expense of the exploration system can result in deficiencies in acquiring important
adaptive knowledge and skills, thus placing the individual at a disadvantage when
confronted by physical, social and emotional challenges. In contrast, over-activation
of the exploration system at the expense of the fear system can lead to dangerous
situations and risk behaviors, placing the individual at heightened risk of injury or
even death and initiating aggressive and delinquent behaviors (Quay, 1993).
Individual differences in the temperamental dimension of approach and withdrawal
were seen as a manifestation of the combined operation of these two behavioral
systems or as a manifestation of the combined operation of the BAS and the BIS.
1.4 The Study of Withdrawal or Inhibited Behavior
The majority of developmental psychology studies about the approach and
withdrawal temperamental dimension focused explicitly or implicitly on one end of
the continuum: withdrawal or behavioral inhibition (Kagan, & Fox, 2006; Kagan &
Snidman, 2004; Martin & Fox, 2006). Such a focus was typically based on the belief

that the timid or shy behavior of some children may be a risk factor for negative
developmental outcomes, such as internalized symptoms.
The first pioneering research focusing on withdrawal and inhibited behavior
was undertaken by the research team of Jerome Kagan (Kagan & Moss, 1962). They
found that the children in the Fels longitudinal study who were the most inhibited as
preschoolers were more likely than their peers to be introverted and reserved as young
adults. This finding triggered interest in exploring the origins of what Kagan termed
"behavioral inhibition." A laboratory procedure was developed to identify behavioral
inhibition by exposing infants and children to novel and arousing stimuli and to
interactions with unfamiliar adults and peers. In addition, physiological reactivity
toward the unfamiliar was also examined. The findings provided evidence of the longterm stability of inhibited and uninhibited behavior and supported the notion that
inhibition has biological roots that bias children to be cautious, timid, and wary in
unfamiliar situations (Kagan, & Fox, 2006; Kagan, Reznick, Snidman, Gibbons, &
Johnson, 1988; Kagan & Snidman, 2004).
On the basis of several longitudinal studies, Kagan and his team identified
10% to 15% of children as inhibited, namely as situated on the extreme end of the
withdrawal continuum. Inhibition was characterized by three aspects: behavioral
manifestation, physiological precursors, and socio-emotional consequences. The
behavior of inhibited children is marked by fearful conduct, crying for and clinging to
the mother, long latency prior to approach or low interest in toys and experimenter,
and a high degree of cautiousness when facing new tasks (Kagan, 2008; Kagan et al,
1988; Kagan & Snidman, 1991). Physiologically, inhibited children exhibit a
biological tendency toward sympathetic reactivity that reflects physiological arousal
and distress (Kagan, Kearsley, Zelazo, 1978; Kagan, Snidman & Arcus, 1998;

Moehler, Kagan, Parzer, Wiebel, Brunner, & Resch, 2006). Specifically, inhibited
children were found to have an exceptionally rapid heart rate to show little heart rate
variability.
Further, recent technological advances have led to the incorporation of models
from neuroscience and the application of psychobiological variables in temperament
research. For example, Kagan and his colleagues postulated that the arousal threshold
in the amygdala is related to motor activity, reactivity, and inhibition, with low
threshold linked to high levels of these temperament traits and high threshold linked
to low levels (Kagan, 1998 ; Kagan, Reznick, Clarck, Snidman, & Garcia-Coll, 1984).
Another line of physiological research concerning withdrawal behavior suggested that
a greater degree of right frontal brain activity is associated with withdrawal tendencies
and the expression of negative affect (e.g., fear, sadness), whereas a greater degree of
left frontal brain activity is associated with approach tendencies and the expression of
positive affect (Kagan & Fox, 2006). Finally, inhibition was found to be a risk factor
for various long-term outcomes, such as internalizing problems, anxiety disorder, and
social withdrawal (Degnan & Fox, 2007; Kagan, 2008; Rimm-Kaufman, & Kagan,
2005).
Since Kagan and his team began working, a large number of researchers have
replicated their findings regarding the persistence of inhibited behavior in a wide
variety of age ranges and cultures. For example, inhibition was found to be a stable
trait in samples of German children ranging from 4 to 8 years old (Asendorpf, 1990;
Asendorpf & Van-Aken, 1993), Swedish preschoolers between the ages of 16 and 40
months (Broberg, Lamb, & Hwang, 1990), and Chinese and Canadian grade school
children (Chen, Rubin, & Li 1995).

Other studies have broadened Kagan's conceptualization of inhibition,


suggesting further implications of this phenomenon (e.g., Asendorpf, 1989, 1993a,
1993b; Fox, 1989; Ho, 1986; Ho & Kang, 1984; Stevenson-Hinde & Marshall, 1999;
Tseng & Hsu, 1969). For example, Calkins, Fox and Marshall (1996) found that
infants who exhibited high motor activity and negative affect at 4 and 9 months of age
displayed more inhibited behavior in the laboratory, and demonstrated higher brain
asymmetry than other children. In general, the large number of studies in this domain
demonstrated that the tendency to exhibit withdrawal behavior and inhibition toward
the unfamiliar is a stable trait with biological roots. These studies also underscored
that this dimension can be identified behaviorally and that the trait is associated with
further psychosocial implications, such as internalizing problems.
1.5 Focusing on the 'Approach' End of the Approach and Withdrawal Temperamental
Dimension
As described in the previous sections most of the empirical efforts in
investigating the approach and withdrawal temperamental dimension focused on the
withdrawal end, with the other end of the continuum extreme approach or
fearlessness receiving much less research attention (Burgess, Marshall, Rubin &
Fox, 2003). Recently however, researchers have begun to discover that the fearless
behavior of children who are high in the approach dimension may also be a risk
factor. Fearless children are liable to be at risk due to their lower level of awareness
of surrounding dangers, their eagerness to explore, and their tendency to approach
varied stimuli, including those that can cause harm. In addition, fearlessness may be a
risk factor for developing externalizing problems and may forecast harmful
consequences both for the individual and for others (Biederman, Newcorn & Spirch,
1991; Quay, 1993). In line with this suggestion, children who were uninhibited at 21

months of age were more likely to exhibit delinquent and aggressive behavior at age
13 compared to adolescents who were inhibited as toddlers (Schwartz, Snidman, &
Kagan, 1996). Similarly, a longitudinal study conducted by Caspi and Silva (1995)
found that children who were under-controlled as 3-years-olds were highly impulsive,
aggressive, and danger-seeking as young adults. Preventing such problematic conduct
can be facilitated by greater understanding of the processes involved in fearless
behavior.
Because only a handful of studies have looked at the extreme approach end of
the approach and withdrawal dimension, this behavioral manifestation is much less
understood than inhibited behavior. For example, the consistency of this behavioral
manifestation across different stimuli (e.g., visual, auditory, social) and its stability
across time is not known. In addition, very little is known about the underlying
physiological predispositions of behavioral fearlessness. Examining fearlessness early
in life and in particular developing reliable ways to identify it early in life may greatly
contribute to understanding the source and nature of this behavior. Furthermore,
examining socio-emotional developmental characteristics among fearless children is
also critical to understanding the long-term consequences of this temperamental
quality. The evolutionary importance of the approach and withdrawal temperamental
dimension, and the paucity of research on fearlessness, the extreme approach end of
this temperamental continuum call for a research answering this lacuna.
The distinction between low levels of inhibition and fearlessness
As described in previous sections most of the developmental studies that
examined the approach and withdrawal temperamental dimension focused on
inhibited behavior (i.e., the withdrawal end) and contrasted it with uninhibited
behavior (Kagan, & Fox, 2006). In other words, most examinations of this

temperamental dimension included a comparison between high fearfulness


(inhibition) and low fearfulness. It should be noted that low fearfulness or low
inhibition is not equivalent to high fearlessness. Low levels of inhibition or low
fearfulness may be conceptualized as reflecting a mid point on the continuum.
Fearlessness which is manifested by high levels of approach behavior in the face of
fear inducing stimuli is different from this mid point. In the present study we were
interested in the high fearlessness end of this continuum. To make sure that we assess
the characteristics of high fearlessness we contrasted high fearlessness with moderate
levels of fearlessness reflecting the mid point besides examining the whole spectrum
of fearlessness. As elucidated in the next sections fearlessness is conceptually
expected to reflect under arousal of the fear system and is expected to be associated
with several distinct affective and social characteristics that were examined in the
present study. In line with this expectation the present study included an assessment
of fearlessness on continuous scales but in addition included also specific
comparisons between children identified as exhibiting high fearlessness and those
identified as exhibiting mid levels of fearless behaviors.
Examination of fearlessness in preschool years
The present study examined fearlessness and various socio-emotional
characteristics that could be associated with fearlessness among preschool children at
age 3-4 years. We sought to identify fearlessness at a very young age of life and to
deepen our understanding how this temperamental tendency is manifested in such
young stage of development. Examination of temperament in young age is important
since it enables us to identify temperamental traits that could be recognized by
different sources and in different contexts before other factors such as social
relationships affect the way such temperamental dimensions are manifested.

Furthermore, because different socio-emotional characteristics that are expected to be


related to fearlessness in childhood (e.g. aggressive behavior, empathy) often have
their roots in the preschool years (Shaw, Gilliom, Ingoldsby, & Nagin, 2003), this
may be a period in the child's development when preventive interventions may be
particularly significant (Dodge & Pettit, 2003). Hence the possibility to identify
fearlessness at an early age could have clear ramifications for clinical and educational
interventions.
As described earlier, individual differences in temperament tend to appear
early in life and can be recognized when the infant is only 2-3 months old. However,
assessing approach and withdrawal behaviors can be identified much easily when
children had already acquired physical and motor capacities that enable them to
approach or to withdraw from various stimuli autonomously. Furthermore, young
children at age 3-4 can express explicitly their interest and wariness also in verbal
communications that could be recognized by direct observation (Sroufe, 2004). It was
further important for us to include various sources and developmental contexts in the
assessment of fearlessness to examine the consistency of this behavioral tendency.
Parents are astute observers of their children but may have distinct biases in
identifying temperament. Given that temperament is at least partially genetic they
may not perceive certain temperamental tendencies as extreme (i.e., fearlessness)
because they themselves exhibit such behavioral tendencies. Further, they may
construe the home environment in a way that accords with their own and their child's
temperamental tendencies thus masking the distinct nature of such tendencies in the
child (Rutter & Rutter, 1992). Hence a different perspective derived from reports or
observation by others who are not genetically similar to the child and reports or
observations that are derived from different contexts that the home environment is

strongly needed. To answer this need we included in the present study two such
external sources: A report by a preschool teacher and a laboratory observation.
In Israel most of the children at age 3 partake in municipal preschools
(Statistical abstract of Israel, 2009). Preschool by nature includes supervision of
regarding the children's safety and security by adults. This is most important
especially because of the high level of locomotion and the high motivation to explore
that characterizes this young age. However, some of the daily routines in the
preschool are quite open and not constrained and as a consequence children can act
and explore in different ways. In other words, compared to younger ages the less
constraining preschool environment enables the child to demonstrate approach
behaviors in the face of fear eliciting stimuli and engagement in dangerous activities
(e.g. climbing on top of a swing). In addition, unlike earlier ages children at the age of
three are expected to notice potential frightening objects and situations and as a result
clear individual differences in approach or withdrawal behaviors could be identified.
Together these considerations led us to focus on the preschool age as the earliest
promising developmental period to consistently identify fearless behavior and its
correlates.
Accordingly, the present study had three objectives: (1) to identify behavioral
fearlessness in preschoolers and examine its consistency across reporters (mother,
father, preschool teacher), and across contexts (preschool, home, and laboratory), and
its stability across time (two assessments spaced one year apart); (2) to identify some
of the physiological predispositions underlying fearless behavior; and (3) to assess
socio-emotional characteristics associated with this tendency, in particular emotional
expressions of distress, such as fearful facial expression, empathy and prosocial
behavior, aggressiveness and severe antisocial tendencies, and sociability.

1.6 Understanding Fearlessness


Behavioral Manifestations
The extreme approach end of the approach and withdrawal temperamental
dimension reflects strong activation of the exploration system at the expense of the
fear system. This results in a profile of specific behaviors, including short latency to
approach new and unfamiliar stimuli; low levels of cautiousness and wariness in the
face of potentially frightening or highly intense stimuli; bold search for new and
exciting experiences; quick adaptability to new situations; friendliness and openness
towards strangers; and eagerness to explore social and non-social stimuli (Kagan,
Reznick, Clarck, Snidman, & Garcia-Coll, 1984). For the most part, fearlessness
reflects bold reactions to potentially frightening stimuli and quick adaptability to
unfamiliar situations. Fearless children react to unfamiliar and potentially frightening
stimuli through an orienting reflex in which they approach the stimulus and try to
interact with and explore it. Such reactive behaviors occur in response to varied types
of social and non-social stimuli, including motor, visual, and auditory stimuli.
Since fearlessness is seen as a manifestation of a constitutional temperamental
disposition, we expected it to be consistent across types of stimuli (e.g., motor, visual,
social, auditory), different reporters (mother, father, preschool teacher), and contexts
(e.g., preschool, home, and laboratory), and stable across time (two assessments, 1
year apart).
Physiological/Neurological Predispositions
The behavioral manifestations of fearlessness in part reflect several
physiological predispositions that can potentially be assessed using physiological
measures. To gain some understanding of the autonomic manifestations of

fearlessness, the current study examined how this behavior was related to resting heart
rate and heart rate variability.
In discussing physiological responses to stimuli from an approach and
withdrawal perspective, we need to consider the two types of reactions described
previously: orienting reflex and defensive reflex. As mentioned, the orienting reflex
serves as a "what-is-it" reaction that focuses receptor organs in an effort to understand
the source of stimuli, whereas the defensive reflex leads to postural shifts away from
the stimuli (Sokolov, 1963; Graham, 1979). Graham (1979) described the different
characteristics of each reflex in terms of heart rate responses to stimuli. The defensive
reflex is manifested in a long latency prior to heart rate increase, while the orienting
reflex is manifested in a prolonged (2-4 sec.) heart rate decrease. Consistent with
Sokolov (1963) and Graham (1979), some studies have suggested that heart rate
deceleration may facilitate sensory intake and that cardiac acceleration is associated
with rejection of sensory input (Lacey, 1959; Lacey, Kagan, Lacey, & Moss, 1963).
Heart rate is a common term used to describe the frequency at which the heart
beats. Specifically, inhalation causes the heart to beat faster and is more related to
arousal of sympathetic activity, whereas exhalation leads to deceleration of the heart
and is more related to arousal of parasympathetic activity. The sympathetic nervous
system ("the accelerator") increases both the rate and the force of heartbeat and is
activated by emotional or physical stressors such as fright, anxiety, excitement or
exercise. Thus, sympathetic activation is usually associated with withdrawal and
inhibition reactions. Kagan's (1996) studies provide support for this claim. Kagan
found that a measure of sympathetic response when an infant was held erect at 2
weeks and at 2 months of age predicted fearful behavior at 14 and 21 months of age.
Similarly, Schnierla (1959) theorized that inhibition was centered in the sympathetic

nervous system, whereas approach was grounded in the parasympathetic nervous


system.
The parasympathetic nervous system ("the brakes") opposes sympathetic
effects and effectively slows heart rate when a stressful situation has passed. Under
normal, resting conditions the heart rate is lower and more variable than when the
individual is investing sustained attention while trying to cope with a potentially
stressful event (Hastrup, Light, & Obrist, 1982). These findings suggest that infants
who exhibit higher and more stable heart rates while facing unfamiliar stimuli may be
adopting the mental set normally associated with the sympathetic system (i.e., fear).
In contrast, children with low and variable heart rates in this context will be less
stressed, and this less stressful state is related to parasympathetic activity that
facilitates exploration.
In line with this depiction, various researchers reported that high levels of
heart rate variability (standard deviation of all interbeat intervals) correlated with
approach behaviors and interest expressions among infants. They also reported that
facial expressions of joy and interest in strangers correlated with increased
parasympathetic activity among infants (Field, Woodson, Greenberg, & Cohen, 1982;
Fox, Henderson, Marshall, Nichols, & Ghera, 2005; Fox & Stifner, 1989; Stifner and
Fox, 1990; Stifner, Fox, & Porges, 1989). These relations between approach-related
emotions and the parasympathetic system are consistent with nomothetic studies that
have reported decelerated heart rate when an individual smiles and exhibits interest
(Berg & Berg, 1979; Izard, 1979; Provost & Gouin-DeCaire, 1979). Furthermore,
Kagan's original findings suggested that uninhibited children have a lower resting
heart rate (Kagan, Reznick & Snidman, 1987). In a related finding, studies of
autonomic under-arousal and behavior problems indicate that low resting heart rate

has been associated with disruptive and aggressive behavior in children (Van Goozen,
Matthys, Cohen-Kettenis, Gispen-de Wied, Wiegant, & Van England, 1998; Raine,
1996; Raine, Venables, & Mednick, 1997).
To sum up, fearlessness can be expected to be associated with lower resting
heart rate and higher heart rate variability.
Socio-Emotional Characteristics
Children who are relatively fearless and not prone to anxiety may not be as
distressed as other children when confronted with an actual or potential wrongdoing
or with a failure to comply (Kochanska, Aksan, Joy, 2007). Several studies have
demonstrated that relatively fearless children score lower on measures of conscience
development than other children (Kochanska, DeVet, Goldman, Murray, & Putnam,
1994; Kochanska, Gross, Lin, & Nichols, 2002). This association was found when
fearfulness was assessed using behavioral measures of fearful inhibitions (e.g.,
avoidance of novel, strange, or threatening stimuli) (Kochanska et al., 2002) as well
as when it was measured using psychophysiological indices of reactivity to
threatening stimuli (Kochanska, Aksan, & Nichols, 2003). Further, this connection
was also documented in prospective studies showing that an assessment of
fearlessness in infancy predicted parental ratings of reduced guilt and shame at ages 6
and 7 (Rothbart, Ahadi, & Hershey, 1994).
A number of researchers have suggested that low fearfulness, or the related
temperament category of low behavioral inhibition (Kagan & Snidman, 1991), may
be related to conscience development. For example, Kochanska (1993) and Blair
(1999) both suggested that a behaviorally uninhibited temperament may place a child
at risk of failing to attend to some of the early precursors of empathic concern
involving emotional arousal evoked by the misfortune or distress of others.

Fearlessness may also make a child relatively insensitive to the prohibitions and
sanctions of parents and other socializing agents (for reviews, see Aksan, &
Kochanska, 2005; Kochanska & Askan, 2007). Overall, children with fearless
tendencies appear to have more difficulty becoming socialized due to their unique
temperamental style marked by low levels of fear and a low sensitivity to punishment
and to distress cues.
In the present study we examined several socio-emotional characteristics
relevant to the development of conscience. These included recognition of emotional
expressions

(e.g.,

fearful

expressions),

empathy

and

prosocial

behavior,

aggressiveness, antisocial tendency, and sociability.


Recognition of Emotional Expressions. Children characterized by underarousal of the autonomic system can be at risk for impaired ability to recognize
emotional distress cues emitted by others (Blair, 1995, 1999). A fearless child may
need stronger distress cues to activate the autonomic system, resulting in reduced
ability to identify distress signals in others. In line with this suggestions, children who
were less physiologically reactive to threatening and emotionally distressing stimuli,
such as fear facial expressions (LeDoux, 1995), made more mistakes in recognizing
these facial expressions (Blair, Colledge, Murray & Mithchell, 2001; Blair, Mitchell,
Peschardt, Colledge, Leonard, Shine, Murray, & Perrett, 2004). Hence, it was
expected that fearlessness would be associated with a lowered capacity to recognize
distress emotions such as fearful facial expressions.
Empathy and Prosocial Behavior. Since fearlessness may be associated with a
lower capacity to perceive and identify the distress of others, it may also be associated
with a lower degree of empathy toward others. Empathy is an emotional reaction
based on understanding and even identifying with the emotional state or condition of

another person. Empathic concern involves actually experiencing emotional arousal


evoked by the misfortune and distress of others. Consequently, empathy plays an
important role in moral and prosocial behavior (Kochanska, 1993, 1997; Kochanska
& Murray, 2000). Specifically, individuals who experience the distress of another
person or respond emotionally, for example with discomfort and anxiety, in response
to the distress of others will be motivated to alleviate the other person's distress
(Aksan, & Kochanska, 2005). Fearlessness may be associated with lower levels of
empathy because the fearless person does not recognize distress signals. Fearlessness
may also be associated with lower empathy because the fearless person does not feel
emotionally and physiologically what the other person feels. Furthermore,
fearlessness may be associated with lower levels of empathy because the fearless
person is more focused on interesting stimuli in the environment rather than on the
other person's need.
Support for the claim that fearlessness may be associated with a lowered
degree of empathy was found in a study demonstrating that children characterized by
low autonomic arousal were more likely to exhibit a lower degree of empathy toward
others (Gratten, Bloomer, Archambault & Eslinger, 1994). Similarly, infants who
exhibited low motor and affective arousal to novelty at 4 months of age were less
empathic at age 2 (Young, Fox & Zahn-Waxler, 1999). Finally, a study of
preschoolers showed that children with low resting heart rate expressed less empathy
in response to a laboratory procedure in which their mother or an experimenter
pretended to be hurt and in pain (Zahn-Waxler, Cole, Welsh, & Fox, 1995). Together,
these studies demonstrated an association between low autonomic arousal supposedly
indicative of behavioral fearlessness and lower levels of empathy.

The ability to experience and express empathy has been associated with
greater frequency of prosocial behaviors reflecting voluntary behavior intended to
benefit others (Aksan, & Kochanska, 2005; Batson, 1991; De Waal, 2008; Eisenberg
& Fabes, 1990). Prosocial behavior includes behavioral efforts to alleviate the distress
of the other and to assist and help actively and intentionally (Eisenberg & Fabes,
1998). Prosocial behavior may ensue from distress feelings due to noticing another
person's distress, from internalization of expectations by socializing agents, or from
other sources. It reflects mature cognitive understanding of rules, norms and moral
issues and the capacity to focus on the other rather than on he self or on the
environment. Because fearlessness is expected to involve difficulty internalizing such
rules and expectations and to be associated with lower levels of empathy or arousal
due to the distress of others we expected fearlessness to be associated also with lower
levels of prosocial behavior.
Aggressiveness and Antisocial Tendency. Low arousal when confronted by the
distress of others and a low capacity to recognize victims' distress may result in
difficulty in inhibiting or ending violent and aggressive acts and may facilitate
continuing such acts even in the face of distress signals, especially fearful facial
expression of the victim. It was argued that fearlessness can also make a child
relatively insensitive to the prohibitions and sanctions of parents and other socializing
agents, with these sometimes aversive reactions not always perceived as such by the
child (Kochanska & Murray, 2000).
Aggressive behavior is defined as any "intentional act to hurt others,
physically or psychologically" (Moeller, 2001). Aggressive behavior can be expressed
physically, verbally, and in terms of relationships and it relates to activities that
intentionally cause actual physical and psychological harm to a person, animal or

object. It can be manifested by hitting, kicking, pushing and shoving, threatening,


calling names, cursing and by damaging social relationships or undermining the
feeling of acceptance (Crick, Grotpeter, & Bigbee, 2002; Elias & Arnold, 2006).
Research on the underlying mechanisms for the emergence and development of
aggression in children and adults have identified various antecedents of aggressive
behaviors including temperamental and environmental ones (Frick, & McMahon,
2008; Frick, & Morris, 2004). For example, deficit in social-cognitive abilities that
include attributing hostile intention to ambiguous provocation by peers (Crick &
Dodge, 1996; Hubbard, Dodge, Cillessen, Coie, & Schwartz, 2001), low frustration
tolerance, and deficit in regulation of negative emotions are associated with higher
levels of aggression (Frick & Morris, 2004; Little, Jones, Henrich, & Hawley, 2003;
Vitaro, Brendgen, & Tremblay, 2002). Children who are high on aggressiveness tend
to have harsh family backgrounds that are characterized by abusive parenting. This
background is considered as contributing to both their social-cognitive deficits and
their problems regulating their negative emotions (Dodge, Bates, & Pettit, 1990;
Strassberg, Dodge, Pettit, & Bates, 1994).
Within the literature addressing temperament and genetic factors and pertinent
to the current study aggressive behaviors have been commonly attributed, at least in
older children and adults, to characteristic under-arousal that can be indexed
physiologically (Raine, Venables & Mednick, 1997). Specifically it was argued that a
lack of empathy in aggressive individuals may be a consequence of their failure to be
aroused by the distress cues emitted by others. Accordingly, relatively low resting
heart rate, indicative of low arousal and under-activation of the fear system, has been
associated with aggression, violent behavior and conduct disorder in children and
young adolescents (Farrington, 1997; Fowles & Kochanska, 2000; Raine, 2002; Raine

& Jones, 1987). In line with these suggestions we expected that fearlessness would be
correlated with aggressive behavior.
However, research has also identified more severe forms of aggressiveness
that are less associated with peer rejection or abusive family experiences but rather
with unique temperamental style and genetic background (Poulin & Boivin, 2000;
Hubbard, Smithmyer, Ransden, Parker, Flanagan, Dearing, 2002). Specifically, in the
temperament literature several indicators of fearlessness such as low behavioral
inhibition (Kagan, & Snidman, 1991), low levels of fear (Rothbart, & Bates, 2006)
and lack of sensitivity to punishment (Kochanska & Askan, 2007) were associated not
only with general aggressiveness but with distinct and severe forms of proactive
aggressive behavior and specifically with severe antisocial tendencies. Research has
uncovered a distinct subgroup of antisocial youth (Frick, Cornell, Barry, Bodin, &
Dane, 2003). Individuals that belong to this group appear to exhibit a more severe
(Christian et al., 1997), aggressive, and chronic (Frick, Stickle, Dandreaux, Farrell, &
Kimonis, 2005) pattern of antisocial behavior than among other antisocial youth. In
particular this group exhibited a number of characteristics, such as callous
unemotional traits, that seem to implicate distinct developmental processes underlying
their antisocial behavior (see Frick & Marsee, 2006; Frick & Morris, 2004 for
reviews).
Callous-Unemotional (CU) traits (see Frick, Barry and Bodin, 2000; Frick &
White, 2008) refer to a response style marked by specific affective (e.g., lacking guilt
and empathy, constricted display of emotion) and interpersonal (e.g. failure to show
empathy, use of others for one's own gain) attributes (Frick, Cornell, Barry, Bodin, &
Dane, 2003). This response style, in turn, has been linked to a number of important
correlates (see Frick & Marsee, 2006; Frick & Morris, 2004 for reviews), such as low

levels of fearful inhibitions (Frick et al., 2003; Frick, Lilienfeld, Ellis, Loney, &
Silverthorn, 1999), decreased sensitivity to punishment cues especially when a reward
oriented-response set was primed (Fisher & Blair, 1998), being less distressed by the
effects of their own behavior on others (Frick et al., 1999; Pardini, Lochman, & Frick,
2003), impairments in moral reasoning (Blair,1999), difficulty recognizing
expressions of sadness and fear in others (Blair, Colledge, Murray, & Mitchell, 2001;
Stevens, Charman, & Blair, 2001), and higher rates of involvement in aggressive and
severe antisocial behaviors (Viding, Frick, & Ploming, 2007). Consequently, we also
expected that fearlessness, even in young children would be associated not only with
higher aggressiveness in general but also with these more severe antisocial tendencies.
Sociability. Fearless behavior does not necessarily forecast negative
consequences only. A strong tendency to approach others, even strangers, coupled
with a lowered tendency to experience wariness and distress may be reflected in
higher sociability and positive affect. For example, a recent large-scale study included
a category of 'confident children' that described 3-year-olds who were zealous, more
likely to adjust to the testing situation, exceptionally friendly, and eager to explore the
testing material (Caspi, Harrington, Milne, Amell, Theodore & Moffitt, 2003). This
group of children, who seemed to be at the fearless end of the approach and
withdrawal continuum, were examined later in adulthood and found to enjoy
dangerous and exciting experiences and activities and to be more extraverted, less
conventional, and more open to experiences (Caspi et al, 2003). In another study,
children who demonstrated high levels of activity and low levels of negativity as
infants and were inquisitive and outgoing in a free play situation as toddlers were
more likely to exhibit friendliness toward others (Mullen, Snidman & Kagan, 1993).
In addition, physiological studies found associations between a strong approach

tendency and sociability (Fox & Stifner, 1989). Similarly, children high on the
approach dimension expressed more joy and interest and showed more smiling and
laughter toward a stranger than did others (Berg & Berg, 1979; Stifner, Fox, &
Porges, 1989). Thus, we expected that fearlessness would be associated with higher
sociability. Together, these hypotheses may reflect the complex socio-emotional
profile of characteristics that were expected to be associated with fearlessness. On the
one hand, fearless behavioral characteristics with their underlying physiological
predispositions were expected to be associated with lowered capacity to recognize
distress emotions (e.g. fear), lower levels of empathy and prosocial behavior, and
higher levels of aggressiveness and antisocial tendency. On the other hand, these
behavioral qualities were expected to be associated with higher sociability.
1.7 Research Hypotheses
Hypothesis 1: We expected the various indicators of behavioral fearlessness to be
moderately interrelated and consistent across types of stimuli (e.g., motor, auditory,
social), reporters (mother, father and preschool teacher), contexts (e.g., preschool,
home, and laboratory), and stable across time (two assessments, one year apart).
Hypothesis 2: We expected fearlessness to be correlated negatively with lower resting
heart rate and positively with higher heart rate variability.
Hypothesis 3: We expected fearlessness to be associated with:
(a) lowered capacity to recognize emotional expressions of distress, such as
fearful facial expression;
(b) lower levels of empathy and prosocial behavior;
(c) higher levels of aggressiveness and severe antisocial tendencies, and;
(d) higher sociability.

Chapter 2: Method
2.1 Overview
This study incorporated parental and preschool teacher's reports as well as two
laboratory procedures spaced one year apart. At Time 1 (n = 80), parents (mother and
father) and preschool teachers reported on the child's fearlessness tendencies,
prosocial behavior, aggressiveness, antisocial tendencies, and sociability. Parents
were also asked to fill in a background questionnaire (SES, birth order, stressful
events) and other scales related to potential intervening variables (parental well-being,
parenting practices, child's hyperactivity and impulsiveness). Questionnaires were
administered during a visit to the child's home and by contacting the preschool teacher
after receiving permission from the parents. The laboratory procedure conducted at
Time 1 examined fearlessness behaviorally and physiologically. In addition, the
childs recognition of emotional expressions, empathy, and prosocial behavior were
also observed. For Time 2, 43 pairs of mothers and children (21 pairs at the high end
of behavioral fearlessness and 22 pairs at mid level of fearlessness) were again invited
to the laboratory for observation of fearlessness, emotion recognition and empathy.
Parents also reported again on the child's fearlessness tendencies and the experience
of stressful events since Time 1.
2.2 Participants

The research sample consisted of 80 pre-school boys and girls (49 boys and 31
girls) ranging in age from three to three-and-a-half years old, their parents, and the
children's preschool teachers. At the time of the first assessment, preschoolers ranged
in age from 3.1 to 3.9 years (M = 3.5 years; SD = 4.16). At the time of the second
assessment, preschoolers ranged in age from 4 to 5.1 years (M = 4.5 years; SD =
3.86). In Israel, parents educational level, density of living quarters, and residential
neighborhoods are considered better indices of socioeconomic status (SES) than is
income (Dar & Resh, 1991). In addition, families of Western origin (Europe or North
America) are more prevalent in higher SES levels. In accordance with the prevailing
characteristics of the middle-class public kindergartens from which they were
sampled, the families in our sample were primarily well educated (86% of the fathers
and 79% of the mothers had at least a bachelors degree), mostly of Western origin
(75% of families), and lived in relatively low density housing (0.96 person per room).
These characteristics (i.e., academic education, moderate housing density) are similar
to those of middle-class families in Israel (Statistical Abstract of Israel, 1996).
Parents ages ranged from 27 to 43 years, with mean age of 34.3 (SD = 4.43). About
92% of the families described themselves as secular, and the remainder described
themselves as traditionally Jewish but not Orthodox. The number of children in these
families varied between one and four, with a mean of 2.23 (SD = 0.82). About half of
the preschoolers (53%) were firstborn children. Eighty-five percent were born in a
regular birth, while 15% had more complicated births involving the use of forceps or
Caesarean section or were premature. In terms of development, 98% of the
preschoolers were described by their mothers as developing normally as expected,
while the mother of one child (2%) reported requiring the professional assistance of
an occupational therapist for motor development for less than a year. None of these

background variables was associated with the major independent variable


(fearlessness) assessed in this study.
2.3 Procedure
Sample selection and recruitment of participants
In selecting our sample we followed Kagan's procedures that were used to
identify inhibited children (Garcia-Coll, Kagan, & Reznick, 1984; Kagan & Snidman,
1991). Specifically to be able to include in the research sample a large enough group
of children who potentially show high fearlessness we used a screening procedure
which was based on mothers' and preschool teachers' reports. The study was described
to parents and preschool teachers as an investigation of how children react to
unfamiliar and familiar situations in their third year.
A list of the public preschools in the Haifa metropolitan area catering to
children from middle to high SES neighborhoods was obtained from the city council.
We then contacted the preschool teachers and explained the research to them. The
explanation involved describing fearless behavior (e.g., bold behavior, willingness to
approach strangers, willingness to engage in dangerous activities, feelings of
enjoyment from risk-taking activities) and how to recognize it (via motor and social
activities in the kindergarten). Second, we asked them to identify boys and girls at the
preschool who appear to be either fearless, moderate or low in fearlessness. Teachers
were asked to identify from zero to nine children in each category with a maximum
number of 27 children. To assist the preschool teachers to recognize fearlessness we
provided eight screening questions on a four-point Likert scale from the teacher
version of the Behavioral Inhibition Scale (Frick, 2001a, see Appendix A, p.164). The
questions were related to physical/motor boldness (e.g., 'This child likes to climb on
high objects, like tops of swing sets or high into trees'; 'This child likes to swing

higher on the swings than most children'); extreme auditory sensation (e.g., 'This child
enjoys fireworks and other things that make a loud noise'); risk-taking behavior (e.g.,
'This child likes to touch bugs and snakes'); and general fear performance (e.g., 'This
child never seems scared of anything'; 'This child likes to try things considered to be
dangerous, where he/she may get hurt'). Teachers were instructed that high levels on
these questions reflect fearlessness, whereas low levels reflect low fearlessness.
Based on the teachers' identification we sent out (through the preschool
teachers) 387 letters in which we introduced the research and asked for the parents'
permission to contact them by phone. Until the parents agreed to be contacted, the
child's identity remained unknown to the experimenter. Two hundred forty-six (246)
families identified by 41 preschool teachers agreed to be contacted (137 boys and 116
girls). The experimenters phoned all the parents who agreed to be contacted. In
practice, the experimenters spoke only to the mothers, who were the ones who
answered the phone. After describing the purpose of the research, mothers were asked
several background questions and several screening questions. Forty families did not
agree to participate in the research after hearing about it. As in the preschool teachers'
screening process, we asked the mothers eight questions from the parent version of
the Behavioral Inhibition Scale (BIS; Frick, 2001a, see Appendix B, p.155). The
questions were the same as those used with the preschool teachers.
Scores on the short form of the BIS (eight items), which served as a screening
tool, ranged from 1 to 32. The mothers score and the preschool teachers score were
combined and averaged across the two reporters for each child (preschool teacher: M
= 19.04, SD = 0.78; mothers: M = 18.96, SD = 0.78). Children whose general score
was between 24-32 points (a score of three and above on a scale ranging between 1
and 4) were identified as potentially characterized by high fearlessness . The cut-off

point was determined in consultation with Paul Frick, who developed the BIS and is
an expert in this field (e.g., Frick, 2001a; Frick, & Morris, 2004; Kimonis, Frick,
Boris, Smyke, Cornell, Farrell, & Zeanah, 2006), and following observational
indications in a pilot study (n = 20; see Appendix C, p.157 ).
Children with potentially high levels of fearlessness were chosen from those
whose general score on the short form of the BIS was between 24-32 points, and the
other children were randomly chosen from the group of families who agreed to
participate in the study and had lower scores on the short form of the BIS. Based on
the results of the pilot study which suggested a medium to high effect size and relying
on statistical power of .75 we aimed to have 25 to 30 children with potentially high
levels of fearlessness and arrive at a total of 75 to 90 children. We stopped recruiting
families when we had sufficient number of participants for the study. In total out of
the 80 children who comprised the sample for Time 1, 28 children were identified by
the screening procedure as potentially showing high fearlessness.
The experimenter arranged a time to visit each family participating at Time 1
for filling out the questionnaires and consent form (see Appendix D, p.158) . Most of
the completed questionnaires were collected during the visit, though some were
submitted by mail to the university address. All the mothers (n = 80) fully completed
the questionnaires and 73 of the fathers. In addition the experimenter scheduled a 2hour laboratory observation with each mother-child dyad.
Around a year after the first assessment, we invited children who were either
high or moderate in fearlessness to participate at Time 2 of the study. The selection of
children was based on the general mean score of fearlessness which was computed by
averaging across fearlessness scores assessed at Time 1 from all the sources
mothers,

fathers,

preschool

teachers

and

laboratory

procedure

(following

normalization of the scores). The high fearlessness group included children from the
top third of the entire sample based on the general score of fearlessness whereas the
moderate fearlessness group included children from the medium third of the entire
sample based on the same general score of fearlessness.
Some of the families declined or were not able to participate (e.g., were abroad
for a year). Ultimately a total of 43 children participated at Time 2, 21 children from
the top third (14 boys and 7 girls) and 22 children from the medium third (13 boys
and 9 girls). This gender distribution (63% boys) was not significantly different from
the distribution observed in the sample of Time 1 ( 55%) and in the larger sample of
families who agreed to be contacted by us (56%).The experimenter arranged to visit
each family participating in Time 2 for filling out the questionnaires. All the
questionnaires were collected by the experimenter during the visit. Only one father
did not complete Time 2 questionnaires. In addition the experimenter scheduled a
one-hour laboratory observation with each mother-child dyad.
Time 1 Lab procedure
Mother-child pairs were invited for a 90 minute laboratory assessment session.
The session involved signing a consent form (see appendix C) as well as
physiological assessments and behavioral procedures. The child's behavior was
recorded on video, and these video recordings were subsequently used by two
independent raters for coding behavioral indicators of fearlessness, empathy and
prosocial behavior. The procedure included 19 episodes (see below), which were
divided into two 45-minute parts separated by a 10-minute food break. Fearlessness
was observed as a reaction to the presentation of different kinds of stimuli supposed to
arouse some fear (e.g., loud noise). We included a diverse set of stimuli (motor,
visual, social and auditory). Empathy and prosocial behavior were examined in

specifically designed episodes of the lab procedure. Similarly, physiological


assessments of the child's heart rate were conducted in specifically designed episodes
as described below.
The episodes in both sessions were adapted from several studies that examined
elicited fear and withdrawal reactions (Garcia-Coll, Kagan, & Reznick, 1984;
Reznick, Kagan, Snidman, Gersten, Baak & Rosenberg, 1986) as well as empathy and
prosocial responses (Kochanska, 1993; Kochanske, Askan & Nichols, 2003). The
episodes were constructed based on a pilot study of 20 children and their mothers. In
the study, different episodes were administered to examine fearlessness, empathy, and
prosocial behavior. The insights gained by the study guided the adaptation of the final
protocol of the procedures (Time 1 and Time 2).
There were 19 Time 1 episodes:
(1). Warm-Up (2 minutes): The experimenter greeted the mother and the child,
explained the purpose of the study, and obtained written consent.
(2). Free Play (8 minutes): The child, mother, and experimenter moved to a nearby
playroom where a set of age-appropriate toys were placed on the floor. The mother
was instructed not to encourage her child to play with any toy and to interact only in
response to the child's initiations. This episode was designed to help the dyad feel at
ease in the new environment.
(3). Climbing Steps (5 minutes): The experimenter brought in a set of three steps (8,
16, 19 cm) and jumped off the first step (8 cm). She then provided three standard
prompts asking the child if s/he would like to jump. Regardless of the child's
response, the experimenter continued to invite the child to jump from the other steps.
This episode was designed to assess fearlessness in the physical/motor domain.

(4). Jumping Jack-in-the-Box (2 minutes): The experimenter wound up a handle on


the box to play music until a clown popped out. She then repeated the trial somewhat
faster and asked the child to wind up the toy. Reactions were analyzed separately for
the music periods (anticipation) and the pop-up (mild startle). This episode was
designed to assess fearlessness in response to a visual stimulus that can arouse fear.
(5). Exploration of Black Box (3 minutes): The experimenter pointed to a large box
with a black cover and a hole in the center for the child's hand. The experimenter told
the child that there may be something inside the box. Three standard prompts
followed, each repeating the message that there is something in the box and
suggesting that the child explores it. This episode was designed to assess fearlessness
in response to a visual stimulus that can arouse fear.
(6). Reaction to a Clown Mask (3 minutes): A clown dressed in a clowns mask and
typical costume entered the room and responded to any interaction initiated by the
child. This episode was designed to assess fearlessness in response to a social
stimulus that can arouse fear.
(7). Reaction to a Vacuum Cleaner (2 minutes): The experimenter returned to the
room and suddenly dropped a few small pieces of paper on the floor. She then brought
in a noisy vacuum cleaner and ran it for two minutes. This episode was designed to
assess fearlessness in response to an auditory stimulus that can arouse fear.
(8). Reaction to Mothers Distress (based on Zahn-Waxler, Radke-Yarrow, Wagner &
Chapman, 1992) (2 minutes). This episode was designed to elicit the childs empathic
reaction towards his/her mother in the face of the mothers distress. For further details
on this episode, see the section on measures.
(9). Food Break (10 minutes): The experimenter asked the child and his/her mother to
take a short break for a snack. They were given the option of going out to a small area

near the laboratory to play basketball or slide. They could also sit at a small table with
pencils and paper. After the break, the experimenter asked them to return to the
laboratory and continue the session. This episode was not included in the video
recording or the observation analyses. It was deliberately included as a time to relax,
based upon insights from the pilot study.
(10). Baseline: The child was asked to sit on a chair near his/her mother in front of a
computer screen. Three wireless electrodes were placed on the child's chest, and the
child was asked to sit quietly for one minute. Baseline physiological indicators were
collected at that time.
(11). Affective Responding Task (International Affective Picture System; IAPS, Lang,
Bradley, & Cuthbert, 2005) (15 minutes). This episode was designed to elicit
physiological indicators concerning heart rate variability using a computer task. Due
to various problems in the administration of this episode we did not include it in the
statistical analysis.
(12). Auditory Escalation Stimuli (Orlebeke & Passchier, 1976; Finlay & Lvinskis,
1987). This episode (3 minutes) was designed to observe heart rate variability in the
face of auditory escalation stimuli (acoustic stimuli ranging from 50 db to 95 db).
Unfortunately these stimuli were not loud enough to arouse fear in almost all of the
children and as a result to elicit changes in heart rate. Consequently, we did not
analyze the data concerning the auditory stimuli.
(13). Free Play with Mother (3 minutes): The experimenter left the room, leaving the
child with the mother to play as desired.
(14). Separation from Mother (2 minutes). The experimenter returned to the room and
signaled the mother to leave the room. The mother left for two minutes and then

returned. This episode was designed to elicit indicators of fearlessness in the social
realm.
(15). Crying Baby (Martin and Clarck, 1982) (5 minutes). The child heard a baby
crying (a recording of a crying baby) outside the laboratory. This episode was
designed to elicit the childs empathy responses. For further details of this episode,
see the measures section.
(16). Experimenter Distress (based on Zahn-Waxler, Radke-Yarrow, Wagner and
Chapman, 1992) (5 minutes). The child witnessed a staged episode in which the
experimenter injured her finger and showed distress. This episode was designed to
elicit the childs empathy response. For further details of this episode, see the
measures section.
(17). Prosocial Opportunities (based on Schenk and Grusec, 1987) (7 minutes). This
episode provided an opportunity for the child to exhibit prosocial behaviors by
helping the experimenter arrange the room and by donating crayons to sick children.
For further details of this episode, see the measures section.
(18). Emotional Expressions Identification Task (Ekman and Friesen, 1978) (10
minutes). This episode included a task related to recognition of emotional
expressions, such as anger, disgust, fear, joy, sadness and surprise. For further details
of this episode, see the measures section.
(19). Concluding Procedure (2 minutes): The experimenter thanked the mother and
child, and asked the child to select a gift from a bowl of toys. The child was given a
nicely designed certificate thanking him/her for participating in the research.
Time 2 Lab procedure
The procedure at Time 2 focused on behavioral measurement of fearlessness,
emotion recognition and empathy. Several reasons led us to examine emotional

recognition and empathy at Time 2 in addition to the assessments at Time 1. Only one
test assessed emotional recognition at Time 1. Since this is an important variable in
the study we decided to strengthen our assessment of this construct and examine it
using a more elaborate technique at Time 2 as well. To strengthen our assessment of
empathy at Time 1 where we used only a behavioral examination of empathy, in Time
2 we added a projective measurement that enabled us to assess empathy in a way that
relates to the child's inner thought and feelings that were not directly assessed in the
first assessment. Due to this additional assessment we could examine empathy as
reflected in several aspects such as behavioral (Time 1), cognitive and affective (Time
2).
The procedure included eight episodes (as described below) and lasted for 60 minutes.
Time 2 episodes included the following:
1. Warm-Up (2 minutes): The experiment greeted the mother and the child and
explained the purpose of the current session.
2. Jumping on Trampoline (4 minutes): The experimenter brought a trampoline into
the laboratory room and jumped on it for a minute. Then, the experimenter used three
standard prompts to ask the child whether he/she wants to jump. This episode was
designed to assess fearlessness in the physical/motor domain
3. Jumping Snake (3 minutes): The experimenter showed the child a can containing
candy, stating that she is not sure what is inside. The experimenter then handed the
can to the child, telling him/her to open it if s/he wanted. When the child removed the
lid, a paper-cover coiled spring ("snake") suddenly jumped out toward the child, but
did not hit him or her. This episode was designed to assess fearlessness in response to
a visual stimulus that can arouse fear.

4. Free Play with Mother (3 minutes): The experimenter left the room, leaving the
child alone in the room with the mother to play at will.
5. Reaction to a Space Alien Mask (4 minutes): An unfamiliar adult masked and
dressed in a costume typical of an alien from outer space entered the room and asked
the child to play with a ball for two minutes. This episode was designed to assess
fearlessness in response to a social stimulus that can arouse fear.
6. Emotional Expression Multimorph Task (Zimmerman, 1999). This episode
included the administration of a task designed to assess recognition of emotions. The
task examined recognition of emotional expressions such as anger, fear, joy, and
sadness by means of a computer task. For further details of this episode, see the
measures section.
7. Empathy and Moral Dilemmas Stories (based on Kochanska, Padavich & Koenig,
1996) (20 minutes). This episode used a story-stem procedure to assess empathy and
prosocial responses. The child was presented with story stems involving potential
moral dilemmas which can elicit empathy and prosocial responses and was asked to
tell and enact using props how the story continued and how it ended. For further
details of the story stem procedure, see the measures section.
8. Concluding Procedure: The experimenter returned to the room and thanked the
mother and child and offered the child cookies and juice. Then the experimenter asked
the child to choose a gift from a bowl of different small toys.
2.4 Measures
Assessment of Fearlessness
Fearlessness was assessed by three reporters (preschool teacher, mother, and
father) who filled out a questionnaire about fearlessness (the Behavioral Inhibition

Scale, Frick, 2001a) as well as by a laboratory observation which included a range of


episodes designed to elicit fear.
Behavioral Inhibition Scale (BIS, Frick, 2001a). The BIS is a measure that
assesses the fearlessness continuum. The respondent refers to the characteristics of a
particular child and is asked to choose between a pair of statements to indicate which
is truer with respect to the child. One statement (e.g., Your child likes to jump out of
a swing while it is high above the ground) describes fearless behaviors, while the
other statement describes a preference against fearless behaviors (e.g., Your child
likes to wait until the swing slows down or stops before getting off). The scale asks
the rater to identify how well the chosen item describes the child by selecting either
sort of describes my child or describes my child well. This format results in a
four-point scale for each item. In this study two versions of the BIS were used: a 15items version for the preschool teacher and a 20-item measure for each of the parents.
The differences between the versions are related to specific items that ask about
behaviors which preschool teachers are not expected to be exposed to (e.g., The child
is afraid of the dark, or afraid of a baby sitter)
The BIS was administered to parents and preschool teachers at Time 1 and
again to parents at Time 2. The internal consistency (Cronbachs alphas) of the BIS
was high with =.94, =.83, and =.78 at Time 1 for preschool teachers, mothers,
and fathers respectively (preschool teacher: M = 25.6, SD =.73; mothers: M = 22.80,
SD =.61; fathers: M = 26.10, SD =.35) and for Time 2 =.81, and =.76 for mothers
and fathers respectively (mothers: M = 29.6, SD =.43; fathers: M = 29.40, SD =.37).
As described in the section on sample recruitment eight questions from the BIS served
as screening questions for choosing the participants.
Validation of the BIS was provided by Bishop, Spence, and McDonald (2003)

who found that children who were rated as highly inhibited (low on fearlessness) by
mothers and teachers took longer to initiate contact with a stranger during a simulated
stranger interaction task, spoke less often and for shorter periods of time, and required
more prompting to elicit speech, compared with children who were rated low on
inhibition (high on fearlessness). In addition, several studies (Cornell, 2004, in
Kimonis et. al, 2006) provided support for the validity of ratings of child behavioral
inhibition in a preschool sample using the BIS, as well as evidence for the
convergence between teacher nominations and parental ratings of behavioral
inhibition.. Moreover, studies using this scale have showed that children who received
high scores on the BIS (uninhibited behavior) were more likely to exhibit deficit in
conscience development, and were rated by parents and teachers as feeling less guilt
than others. In contrast, children who received low scores on the BIS (inhibited
behavior) tended to demonstrate higher levels of conscience development, particularly
guilt, irrespective of parenting practices (Kimonis, 2006). In sum, the BIS has shown
good validity and reliability in studies that used this scale to differentiate between
inhibited and uninhibited behaviors in young children.
Behavioral Assessment. Examination of fearlessness in the laboratory
procedure at Time 1 involved several episodes constructed to elicit fear from a range
of different stimuli (physical/motor, visual, social and auditory). In each of these
episodes the coders coded specific indicators of fear or its absence. Some of the
indicators included signs of fearlessness that could occur across all of these episodes
(e.g., approaching experimenter or objects, moving away from the mother, short
latencies approaching unfamiliar person or object), whereas other responses included
behaviors that could occur in only some of the episodes (e.g., reaction to vacuum
cleaner, willingness to jump off steps). Most behaviors were coded using 1 to 5 Likert

scales with a score of 1 representing low fearlessness and score of 5 representing high
fearlessness. In addition for some of the episodes time to react in a certain way was
recorded (e.g., time in seconds till the child explored the black box) with shorter time
indicating higher fearlessness, as well as coding whether the child engaged in the
requested behavior, indicating high fearlessness (e.g., jumped from the steps) or not
Indicators of fearlessness in the physical/motor domain were coded in the
climbing steps episode (number 3). In total there were 7 indicators (e.g., willingness
to jump off the steps; the extent to which the child needed help from the mother to
climb the steps). High fearlessness in these indicators was reflected in a noticeable
willingness to jump off the steps and carry out the task as requested and in completing
the task without mother's help. Fearlessness in reaction to visual stimuli which could
arouse fear was assessed in the Jack-in-the-box episode (number 4) and in the black
box episode (number 5). The 6 indicators in the Jack-in-the-box episode and the 4
indicators in the black box episode included (1) willingness to wind up the handle of
the musical Jack-in-the-box, (2) the extent the child needed his/her mother help wind
up the box, (3) the childs willingness to explore the black box, (4) time to explore the
black box or to wind up the handle, etc. High fearlessness was reflected in a
noticeable willingness to wind up the musical Jack-in-the-box and to carry out the
task as requested, in a short latency to do it, and in completing the task without the
mother's help.
Social stimuli were related to the episode in which the experimenter was
dressed as a clown (episode 6) and in the two-minute separation from the mother
(episode 12). In total there were 6 indicators for the clown episode (e.g., willingness
to interact with the clown; emotional response to the clown; the extent to which the
child approach the clown) and 3 indicators for the separation episode (e.g., emotional

reaction to mother leaving the room, willingness to remain in the room while the
mother waited outside). High fearlessness included noticeable willingness to interact
with the clown, positive and enjoyable facial expressions towards the clown, and
relaxation or indifference when the mother left the room. Low fearlessness, in
contrast, was seen in direct and ongoing resistance to interacting with the clown,
negative affect towards the clown, and active resistance to the mother leaving the
room.
Fearlessness in reaction to auditory stimuli which could arouse fear was
assessed in reaction to the noisy vacuum cleaner (episode 7). Here the indications of
high fearlessness (total of 6 indicators) included for example, noticeable interest in the
vacuum cleaners operation and initiation of interaction regarding the vacuum cleaner.
At Time 2, physical/motor domain stimuli were related to jumping on the
trampoline (episode 2). In total there were 7 indicators (e.g., willingness to jump on
the trampoline; the extent to which the child needed his/her mothers help in jumping
on the trampoline). High fearlessness was reflected in a noticeable willingness to
jump on the trampoline and to complete out the task as requested and without the
mother's help, whereas low fearlessness was shown in direct and continuing resistance
to jumping on the trampoline and to actively soliciting and using the mothers help.
Visual stimuli were related to the jumping snake (episode 3). The 6 indicators in this
domain included for example willingness to operate the box with the jumping snake
inside, the extent the child needed his/her mother help to operate the box, emotional
response to the jumping snake, etc. Here, high fearlessness was indicated by a
noticeable willingness to operate the box with the jumping snake and to carry out the
task as requested and without the mother's help. Low fearlessness, in contrast, was
indicated by direct and ongoing resistance to operate the box with the jumping snake

and by actively soliciting and using the mothers help. A social stimulus was related
to exposure to the experimenter dressed in the costume and mask of a space alien
(episode 5). The 6 indicators in this domain included for example willingness to
interact with the space alien; emotional response to the space alien; the extent to
which the child approach the space alien, etc. High fearlessness was indicated by
noticeable willingness to interact with the alien and by positive and enjoyable facial
expressions towards the alien.
For each domain (i.e., motor, visual, auditory, social) we normalized the
scores on the different indicators and constructed scales for each domain averaging
across its indicators with high scores representing high fearlessness. Internal
consistencies for each domain in both Time 1 and Time 2 were high as follows:
Motor - Time 1 (climbing steps) Cronbachs = .88 ; Visual Time 1 (Jack-in-thebox operation and black box exploration) Cronbachs = .79 ; Social Time 1
(clown mask and separation from mother) Cronbachs = .82 ; auditory Time 1
(vacuum cleaner) Cronbachs = .89 ; Motor- Time 2 (jumping on trampoline) Cronbachs = .89 ; Visual Time 2 (Jumping snake) - Cronbachs = .74 ; and
social Time 2 (Reaction to a space alien mask)- Cronbachs = .73. Finally, we
combined the different indicators to one general variable in each laboratory
observation: General Laboratory Score Time 1- Cronbachs = .95 and General
Laboratory Score Time 2 - Cronbachs = .92.
The coding of the episodes was informed by the pilot study. Twenty
videotaped observations of children who participated in the pilot study were coded by
two trained judges (graduate students I.K.B and L.L.). After establishing specific
norms and scales for identifying fearless and fearful behaviors in the lab observation,
the two judges coded an additional twenty videotaped observations from the current

study that were used to test inter-judge reliability in Time 1. There was a good
agreement between the two judges regarding the different scales indicating behavioral
fearlessness. The reliability analysis was done by calculating an average reliability
score across all of the scales that belong to specific domain: 81% (kappa = .71) for
motor indicators, 87% (kappa = .76) for visual indicators, 90% (kappa = .89) for
social indicators and 84% (kappa = .75) for auditory indicators. One of the judges
(L.L.) rated all the remaining videotapes and transferred the tapes to the second judge
(I.K.B) whenever the score of the scales was not clear. Three additional cases were
resolved through joint discussion.
At Time 2, a new judge (A.M.), who had not participated in the first data
collection phase, rated 43 of the videotaped observations based on a comprehensive
manual and after rating six trial cases from the pilot study. The coders (A.M and
I.K.B) established reliability using twelve videotaped Time 2 observations. There was
good agreement between the judges regarding the different fearlessness scales
indicators. The reliability analysis was done by calculating an average reliability score
across all of the scales that belong to specific domain: 87% (kappa = .77) for motor,
89% (kappa = .78) for visual and 85% (kappa = .74) for social domains.
Physiological Assessment
During the behavioral session (baseline episode - number 10), we assessed the
preschoolers' heart rate. With mother's consent three electrodes colored to make them
more attractive were gently placed on the child's chest and stomach. Through a thin
wire these electrodes were connected to a separate amplifier placed in the same room
which was itself connected to a monitor in a separate room. The output from the
electrodes was run through a monitor and AR-7 digital processor that was configured
to collect heart interbeat intervals. The heart rate signals were recorded on a IBM T-

42 computer. Heart rate was recorded continually during a 1-min baseline while the
child was seated in front of a black screen. This was done because heart rate recording
can be measured most accurately during a neutral and calm state. Data files of the
heart rate recording were transferred to a computer using SPSS software for artifact
editing. Artifacts are common in cardiac data collected from young children because
of body movements and other interventions that impair the reliability of the data. Data
files that were incomplete due to technical problems were not included in the analysis.
Heart rate was calculated in 15-s epochs during the baseline episode. Although this
epoch duration is brief it is typical for studies of short duration tasks and it's validity
has been shown in previous research (Huffman, Bryan, Del Carmen, Pedersen,
Doussard-Roosevelt, & Porges, 1998). Two indicators were used in the physiological
assessment of fearlessness: baseline heart rate level (resting heart rate) and heart rate
variability. Mean values during the baseline episode were computed for use in this
analysis. Low resting heart rate and high heart rate variability were expected to reflect
higher degrees of fearlessness.
Physiological assessment of the young children who participated in the study
proved to be a great challenge. Thirty children exhibited major difficulties during the
physiological assessment. Some refused to put on the electrodes, while others
removed the electrodes during the recording or did not cooperate in other ways.
Analysis of the physiological data yielded 50 complete physiological records. The
remaining recordings (30) had major disturbances and fluctuations and consequently
were not reliable. The children for whom we had complete physiological data were
significantly different from the other 30 children. Most of these 50 children ( 22 high
fearless, 23 moderate, 5 fearful)) belonged to the moderate and fearless groups,

whereas the group of 30 children who refused to put on the electrodes included a
larger number of fearful children.(6 high fearless, 7 moderate, 17 fearful).
Assessment of Recognition of Emotional Expression
Recognition of emotional cues of fear and distress expressions was examined
at Time 1 by presenting six Emotional Expression Pictures (see episode 16). This
procedure was based on Ekman and Friesen (1978) and was adapted for young
children. The child was shown a total of 24 pictures of emotions on the computer, 4
pictures for each emotion (anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, and surprise,
presented in this order). The specific emotional facial expressions included in these
pictures have been consistently recognized by people from widely differing cultures
(Ekman, 1994; Frank, Ekman, & Friesen, 1993). Prior to the task, the experimenter
first checked the child's knowledge of the emotional terms. The child was told that
he/she was going to see several pictures, each with different facial expressions. The
child was asked to watch the expressions carefully and to identify the exhibited
emotion out loud. Each picture was presented for one minute before switching to the
next pictured facial expression in the sequence. We calculated the number of errors
per emotion. Scores ranged from 1 to 4 errors for each emotion (there were no zero
errors), with a high number of errors reflecting an inability to recognize the specific
emotion.
At Time 2, emotional expression recognition was assessed by the Emotional
Expression Multimorph task (Zimmerman, 1999) (see episode 6), a procedure used
with young children for recognizing anger, fear, joy, and sadness. The child was
shown a series of 16 pictures of specific emotional facial expressions (four pictures
for each emotion - anger, fear, joy, and sadness in that order). The experimenter asked
the child to sit at a table facing a computer screen and then checked the child's

knowledge of various emotion terms prior to beginning the task. The child was
instructed that he/she was going to be shown different facial expressions on the
computer screen. The first few expressions would be neutral, but they would slowly
change to reveal one of several emotions. The child was instructed to watch as the
expressions changed. As soon as the child first recognized and felt confident about
which emotion was displayed, he or she was instructed to identify it out loud (first
guess of the emotion). The child then continued to watch the changing facial
expressions on the computer screen and was again instructed by the experimenter to
stop the procedure as soon as he or she was sure of his/her identification (second
guess of the emotion). The number of correct identifications of the specific emotion at
each stage was recorded. A mean correct identification score was calculated for
responses to each of the four emotions. A larger number of correct recognitions
reflected a greater capacity to recognize that emotion and denoted greater sensitivity
in recognizing these emotions.
Assessment of Empathy
Time 1 assessment. At Time 1, the indicators reflecting empathy were assessed
in three episodes, 8 (Mother's Distress), 13 (crying baby) and 14 (Experimenter
Distress). The procedure for episode 8 (Mother's Distress) was adapted from the work
of Zahn-Waxler, Radke-Yarrow, Wagner, and Chapman (1992). During the task, the
experimenter asked the mother for help in moving the table to clean the carpet. The
mother pretended she had been hurt while moving the table, according to instructions
she received before the laboratory procedure began.
The crying baby episode (Episode 13) was adapted from Martin and Clarck
(1982). During this task, the experimenter asked the child to look at a few simple
picture books while the experimenter and the mother appeared to be busy filling out

forms. An audiotape of another toddler crying was played outside of the playroom for
two minutes. The experimenter and mother continued to appear occupied unless the
child asked them about the crying. In this case, they said that the crying was from
another child visiting the laboratory who was upset because his mother had left the
room.
The procedure used in Episode 14 (Experimenter Distress) was adapted from
the work of Zahn-Waxler, Radke-Yarrow, Wagner and Chapman (1992). In this task
the experimenter pretended to slam the door on her finger and feigned distress for 45
seconds. Several studies have successfully produced measurable empathy responses in
young children using this same procedure (Young, Fox & Zahn-Waxler, 1999). After
giving the child two minutes to react, the experimenter put on a Band-Aid and
claimed to feel better.
The episodes were coded based on the work of Zahn-Waxler, Robinson and
Emde (1992). The coding used three indicators: (1) Response latency: the total time,
in seconds, from the beginning of the task until the child began to comment, gesture,
or approach the experimenter. (2) Hypothesis testing: attempts to understand the
distress of the experimenter or the baby were rated on a 5-point scale (ranging from 1nonverbal gestures to 5 - four or more inquiries or lengthy explorations into the cause
of the distress). (3) Concerned affect: expressions of concern for the victim through
facial, gestural, or verbal displays of sadness were rated on a 5-point-scale (ranging
from 1- no-concern to 5- great concern). For the response latency indicator, a high
score denoted less empathy, while for the other two indicators, high scores denoted
high levels of empathy. We normalized the different scales and reversed the response
latency score to construct a single empathy scale across all three episodes termed
Empathy (laboratory general score) where high score denotes higher empathy. In this

study the internal consistency for empathy (general laboratory score) at Time 1 was
good (Cronbach = .79).
Twenty videotaped observations of children who participated only in the pilot
study were coded by two trained graduate student judges (I.K.B and L.L.). After
establishing specific norms for identification of empathy in the lab observation, they
coded twenty videotaped observations used to test inter-judge reliability at Time 1.
There was a good agreement between the two judges regarding the different empathy
scales, with agreement ranging from 79% to 87% (kappa = .80 to kappa = .90). One
of the judges (L.L.) rated all the remaining videotapes and transferred the tapes to the
second judge (I.K.B) whenever the score of the scales was not clear.
Time 2 Assessment. Empathy at Time 2 was examined by Empathy and Moral
Dilemma Stories (episode 7) based on Kochanska, Padavich, and Koenig (1996). In
Time 1, empathy was examined primarily by behavioral observational. In Time 2 we
sought to elaborate our understanding of empathy by using a projective measure. This
tool enabled us to examine empathy by giving the children the opportunity to express
thoughts and feelings in hypothetical situations that resemble actual experiences.
Using puppets, the experimenters enacted five story stems (distressed brother/sister,
aggression towards peer, violation of maternal prohibition, assisting a peer, and
stealing a toy from a peer) and asked the child to take the puppet and continue the
story by using the puppets. Each of the five stories presented a moral dilemma or
provided an opportunity for empathy reaction. The experimenter asked the child to sit
on a chair at a small table. The experimenter then asked the child to choose a puppet
(main character) to participate in all of the stories and to give the puppet a name. The
experimenter began the stories, using specific objects relevant to the story (e.g., bed,
shelf, band-aid, horse). Each of the five stories was followed by a standard set of

questions: (1) How did the protagonist feel in the situation? (2) What did the
protagonist do in the situation? (3) How did the situation end? (4) How would you
feel in the same situation/What would you do in the same situation? The stories were
as follows:
(1) Warm-up story: The protagonist is having a birthday party.
(2) Distressed brother/sister: At night the protagonist heard his or her younger sibling
crying loudly and called out loud that the sibling is having a nightmare.
(3) Aggressiveness towards peer: (without confrontation): The protagonist wanted to
play with a peer's rocking horse and asked permission to ride it. When refused, the
protagonist pushed the other child off the horse, causing the peer to fall and get hurt,
while the protagonist began riding the horse.
(4) Violation of maternal prohibition: The protagonist took a cookie when the mother
was not around even though he/she had specifically been told not to. The protagonist
was subsequently confronted by the mother.
(5) Helping a peer: The protagonist and his or her best friend went for a walk.
Suddenly the best friend fell and hurt his knee and started to cry.
(6) Stealing a toy from a peer (without confrontation): The protagonist took another
child's ball while that child was not there. When the child returned and saw that the
ball is gone, the child began to cry.
Nine scales were constructed to code the stories: feelings of distress,
expression of interest in others' distress, willingness to help while others are in
distress, feelings of regret after wrongdoing, justification of wrongdoing, and
willingness to make amends after wrongdoing (see Apendix E, p.159). The scales
ranged from 1 to 5 points, with a high score denoting higher empathy.

All the stories were transcribed verbatim. Two experienced graduate students
(I.K.B and V.B) established reliability using eight transcripts from a pilot study
conducted to prepare the Time 2 lab procedures. Twenty moral dilemma story
interviews from Time 2 were used to test inter-judge reliability. There was a good
agreement between the two judges (I.K.B and V.B.) for the various scales examined
in the research. For the 20 cases, there was 80% agreement (kappa = .69) for the
feelings of distress scale, 87% agreement (kappa = .74) for the expression of interest
in others' distress scale, 84% agreement (kappa = .72) for the willingness to help
while others are in distress scale, 81% agreement (kappa = .81) for the feelings of
regret after wrongdoing scale, 86% agreement (kappa = .74) for the justification of
wrongdoing scale, and 79% agreement (kappa = .61) for the willingness to make
amends after wrongdoing scale. The intercorrelation of the dimensions revealed high
associations among some of the scales (ranging from .85 to .91). Consequently, we
constructed two major scales: (1) Empathy (Cronbach's = .86) that included the
scales of feelings of distress, expression of interest in others' distress, willingness to
help while others are in distress, feelings of regret after wrongdoing and willingness
to make amends after wrongdoing, and,(2) Justification of wrongdoing (Cronbachs
= .81).
Assessment of Prosocial Behavior
Lab procedure. Indicators of prosocial behavior at Time 1 observation were
examined in Episode 15: Prosocial Opportunities. The procedure was adapted from
Schenk and Grusec (1987). First, the experimenter asked the child to help set up the
room for the next session, and the experimenter "accidentally" overturned a large box
full of papers, pens, and paperclips. The extent of the child's assistance in cleaning up
the mess was recorded. Shortly afterwards the child was given six crayons. The

experimenter said that he or she is collecting crayons for hospitalized sick children
and that if the child wishes he or she can donate some of the crayons by placing them
in large covered box at the side of the room.
Coding the episode included two indicators, one for cleaning the room and the
other for donating crayons. Response latency, i.e. the total time elapsed in seconds
from the beginning of the experimenter's request for help to the child's gesturing
toward or approaching the experimenter, was recorded for the first task. Short latency
denotes high levels of prosocial behavior. In the second task, the number of crayons
the child donated was an indicator of prosocial behavior. The scores on these
indicators were highly correlated (r = .82). As a result, we computed one general
score for prosocial behavior in the lab procedure (Cronbach's = .71).
Reports by Parents and Preschool Teacher. The Child Behavior Scale (CBS;
Ladd & Profilet, 1996, see Appendix F, p.167) is a teacher-report measure that
assesses the behavior of young children (ages 4-6) in peer contexts, such as
classrooms and peer activities. According to Ladd & Burgess (2001), the CBS is also
suitable for parental reporting. Hence in the present research we used the CBS for
preschool teachers' reporting as well as for parental reporting. The CBS comprises six
subscales representing various dimensions of young children's behavior in peer
settings: aggressive with peers (seven items, e.g., 'Fights with other children');
prosocial with peers (seven items, e.g., 'Helps other children'); excluded by peers
(seven items, e.g., 'Peers refuse to let this child play with them'); sociability (six
items, e.g., 'Prefers to play with friends'); hyperactive-distractible (four items, e.g.,
'Restless. runs about or jumps up and down. doesnt keep still'); and anxious-fearful
(four items, e.g., 'Tends to be fearful or afraid of new things or new situations').
Respondents are asked to rate the behavior described in each item in terms of how

characteristic or applicable it is for the targeted child, using a 1-3 point Likert scale.
Subscale scores are created by averaging children's scores across the items included in
each subscale, with higher scores implying that children more frequently exhibit
behaviors that correspond to the rated construct. The CBS has been evaluated with
children from diverse socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds, and older age levels
(e.g. middle childhood), and found to have favorable psychometric properties within
different samples (Ladd, Birch & Buhs, 1999; Ladd & Burgess, 1999; Ladd &
Burgess, 2001). For the purpose of this study, we used only three scales: aggressive
with peers, prosocial with peers, and sociability. The internal consistency (Cronbachs
alphas) of the scales in this study was moderate to good, ranging from = .81-.92 for
preschool teachers, = .68-.87 for mothers, and = .68-.86 for fathers (for more
details see Appendix F, p.168).
Assessment of Aggressiveness and Severe Antisocial Tendency
The Child Behavior Checklist - Parent Version (CBCL; Achenbach,
1991,1992, see Appendix F, p.184) is a widely used parental report measure of
childhood adjustment problems. This checklist assesses a range of childhood
problems, and sex- and age-appropriate norms are available. The original scale
contains items that tap externalizing problems such as aggressiveness as well as
internalizing problems (e.g., anxiety/depression, withdrawal). The CBCL parent
version includes 100 items divided into seven sub-scales. However, in the current
study we used only the aggressiveness scale, which includes 19 items (e.g., 'Destroys
objects/materials that belong to family members or friends'). The parents were asked
to rate each item on a 3-point scale (0 - not true, 1 - true to some degree, 2 - very
true). The internal consistency (Cronbach's alphas) for the scale was good ( = .90
and = .87 for mothers and fathers, respectively).

The Child Behavior Checklist - Preschool Teacher Version (CBCL;


Achenbach, 1991, 1992, see appendix F, p.169). Similar to the parent's version, the
CBCL preschool teacher version includes 64 items that relate to externalizing and
internalizing problems. In the present study we used only the aggressiveness scale,
which includes 19 items (e.g. 'Hits other children', 'used to be angry easily'). The
preschool teachers were asked to rate each item on a 3-point scale (0 - not true, 1 true to some degree, 2 - very true). Internal consistency was good (Cronbach's =
.93).
The present study showed high within reporter intercorrelations between the
scales that examined aggressiveness: the CBCL and the CBS (preschool teacher .88;
mothers .80 ; and fathers .76). Hence, we computed a general aggressiveness scale for
each of the reporters after normalizing the scores of the two scales.
Antisocial Process Screening Device (APSD; Frick & Hare, 2001, see
Appendix F, p.166). The APSD is a 20-item behavior rating scale designed to assess
features associated with severe antisocial tendency and aggressive behavior. The
APSD has three subscales: Narcissism (e.g., 'Brags excessively about his/her abilities,
accomplishments, or possessions'); Impulsivity: (e.g., 'Acts without thinking of the
consequences'); and Callous-Unemotional features (e.g., 'Feels bad or guilty when he/
she does something wrong'). In this study we only used the overall scale. The items
on the APSD scale were designated to assess a particularly severe and aggressive
group of preadolescent children with conduct problems in both clinic-referred
(Christian, Frick, Hill, Tyler, & Frazer, 1997) and school-based samples (Frick,
Cornell, Barry, Bodin, & Dane, 2003). This scale has factor analytic support in both
at-risk and community samples of children and studies using it showed that children
who received high scores on the APSD were more likely to exhibit lack of behavioral

inhibition and more proactive aggression (Frick, Barry, & Bodin, 2000) and antisocial
behavior twelve months after the first assessment at age 4-9 (Dadds, Fraser, Frost, &
Hawes, 2005 ; Kimonis, Frick, Boris, Smyke, Cornell, Farrell, & Zeanah, 2006).
Informants rate behaviors on a 3-point Likert scale from 0 (Not at all true) to 2
(Definitely true), with a possible range of 0 to 40. The internal consistency
(Cronbachs alphas) regarding the scale were high ( = .85, = .80 and = .86 for
preschool teachers, mothers, and fathers, respectively).
Assessment of Intervening Variables
In the present study we examined several potential intervening variables, such
as demographic and background information, temperament, hyperactivity and
impulsivity, and parental practices, and examined the association of these variables
with fearlessness.
Demographic and Background Information. Relevant demographic and
background variables (e.g., SES, birth order, stressful events, and cognitive and
physical indicators of child development, see Apendix F, pp.173, 196) were assessed
(mostly) at Time 1. We used The Denver Development Screening Test (Frankenburg,
Fasndal, & Thornton, 1987), to assess the children's normal development. This
assessment enabled us to rule out the possibility that development problems and
delays in development are implicated in fearlessness. At Time 1 and Time 2 we also
used the Stressful Life Events questionnaire (Goodman, Corcoran, Turner, Yuan, &
Green, 1998) to examine the possibility that such events affect the child's fearlessness
or moderated the stability of fearlessness across time. Participants were asked to
indicate whether they or the child had experienced various stressful events till the first
assessment (Time 1 measure) or in the time between the first and second assessments
(Time 2 measure). A score ranging from 1 to 9 was computed to reflect the number of

such events or experiences, with a score of 1 reflecting a lower number of stressful


events.
The Denver Developmental Screening Test (DDST; Frankenburg, Fandal, &
Thornton, 1987, see Appendix F, p.197). The DDST examines three domains
adaptive behavior, language development and motor development in children
between the ages of 2 and 4. During Time 1, all the children who participated in the
research were between 3.5 and 4 years old. Adaptive behavior reflects a child's ability
to behave appropriately in several situations, such as feeling cold, hungry, or tired, as
well as the child's ability to describe the use of a pencil, a cup or a chair. Language
development examines different language abilities, such as naming objects and their
functions, pointing out parts of the body, identifying different kinds of animals and
the sounds they make, identifying different colors, and naming friends. Motor
development includes the child's gross and gentle motor movements, including
drawing a straight line, moving the thumb, jumping, and body balance. The test
consists of 20 tasks administered to the child and the parent. Each task has a cut-off
point that reflects 90% of what is typical of children at this age. Each domain is
separately categorized as normal (no delays or one delay compensated by one early
item) or abnormal (one delay without compensation or two or more delays). The
overall DDST classification is normal (all four domains normal), at risk (one domain
abnormal), or abnormal (two or more domains abnormal). All of the children who
participated in the present study were categorized as normal for adaptive behavior,
language development, and motor development. The DDST was administrated at the
end of the laboratory procedure. The experimenter asked the mother and the child to
complete the 20 tasks where some of the questions were directed to the mother (e.g.
'do people other than family members understand the child when making conversation

with him/her') and some of them directed to the child (e.g. 'jump above the paper',
'name the animals you see in the picture'). The DDST lasted 10 minutes.
Assessment of Temperament. To locate fearlessness within the general scheme
of temperamental qualities we wanted to assess the association between fearlessness
and central temperamental dimensions (i.e., effortful control, negative affectivity and
surgency; Rothbart, 2004).
Parental ratings of the childs temperament were derived using the Childrens
Behavior Questionnaire (CBQ 3-7 years short form, Rothbart, Ahadi, Hershe, &
Fisher, 2001, see Appendix F, p.176). The 94 items in the CBQ are evaluated on a
seven-point scale reflecting the relative frequency of specified child reactions in
concrete situations in previous weeks. The CBQ includes 15 subscales: activity level,
anger/frustration, approach/anticipation, attentional focusing, discomfort, falling
reactivity and soothability, fear, high-intensity pleasure, impulsivity, inhibitory
control, low intensity pleasure, perceptual sensitivity, shyness, sadness and smiling
and laughter.
Based upon Rothbart, Ahadi, and Hershey (1994), we constructed three major
factors surgency, negative affectivity and effortful control. Surgency is based on the
average of the scale scores for activity level, high-intensity pleasure, impulsivity, and
shyness (reverse scored, Cronbach's = .71). Negative affectivity is based on the
average scores for anger, discomfort, fear, sadness (sadness was not used in the
current study due to a low internal consistency score), and soothability (reverse
scored, Cronbach's = .74.). Effortful control is based on the average of attention
focusing, inhibitory control, low-intensity pleasure, and perceptual sensitivity
(Cronbach's = .73).

Assessment of Impulsiveness and Hyperactivity. Because fearlessness is


characterized by eagerness to explore and short latency in approaching new and
exciting stimuli, it may overlap somewhat with hyperactivity or impulsivity.
However, fearlessness is not equivalent to impulsivity and the nature of these
behaviors is different. Whereas fearlessness is related to under-activation of the fear
system and over-activation of the approach system, impulsivity and hyperactivity may
result from low levels of inhibitory control. In this study we examined the association
between the two constructs as well as the contribution of fearlessness to socioemotional characteristics over and above the contribution of impulsivity to these
outcomes.
The Revised Conners Parent Rating Scale Questionnaire, Short Form (CPRSR:S; Conners, Sitarenios, Parker, & Epstein, 1998, see Appendix F, p.189) is a 27item 4-point Likert-type scale (0 = never, 1 = occasionally, 2 = often, and 3 =
very often) that yields four mutually exclusive scale scores defined by factor
analysis. Of these, three were used in this study: the cognitive problems/inattention
scale (six items, e.g., 'Difficulty doing or completing homework', 'Has trouble
concentration in class'); the hyperactivity and impulsivity scale (six items, e.g. 'Is
always on the go or acts as if driven by a motor', 'Hard to control while in malls or
while grocery shopping'); and the ADHD index (15 items, e.g., 'Inattentive, easily
distracted', 'Short attention span'). The CPRS-R:S is a widely used screening
instrument whose reliability and validity have been demonstrated on a large, national
preschool sample (Conners et al., 1998). Testretest reliability and concurrent validity
of the CPRS-R:S are considered good (Conners, 2000). In the present study, the
internal consistency (Cronbach's alphas) of the whole scale averaged across the three
sub-scales was good ( = .90 and = .92 for mothers and fathers, respectively).

According to CPRS-R:S norms, the clinical cut-off point for boys ranging in the 3-3.5
age range is over 6 points for the cognitive problems/inattention scale, over 7 points
for the hyperactivity and impulsivity scale, and over 15 points for the ADHD index.
In our study only three boys were above the cut-off point for clinical classification in
the ADHD index. The clinical cut-off point for girls is above 6 points for cognitive
problems/inattention scale, above 6 points for hyperactivity and impulsivity scale, and
above 14 points for ADHD index. None of the girls who participated in the study
were over the cut-off point for clinical classification in each of the sub-scales.
Assessment of Parental Practices and Well-Being. Fearlessness is expected to
reflect a temperamental dimension; hence, it should only be modestly if at all
associated with parenting, at least in toddlerhood. To examine this expectation which
reflects a test of discriminate validity of the assessment of fearlessness we assessed a
range of parental practices and also included various measures of parental well-being
(e.g. anxiety, depression) and examined the association of these variables with
fearlessness. We assumed that fearlessness would not be associated with parental
practices and parental well-being, or would only show modest associations with these
variables thus providing discriminate validity to our assessment of fearlessness.
The Mental Health Inventory (MHI: Veit & Ware, 1983, see Appendix F, p.
195) was used to assess parental well-being (ten items, e.g., 'Happy, satisfied, or
pleased with personal life'). Parents were asked to answer each item using a scale
ranging from 1 (never) to 6 (all the time) with respect to their feelings over the
previous two weeks. The measure has shown high internal reliability and good testretest reliability, as well as construct and discriminate validity (e.g., Florian & Drory,
1990). In the current study the internal consistency of this scale (Cronbach's alphas)
was = .94 and = .93 for mothers and fathers, respectively.

Revised Beck Depression Inventory II (BDI-II; Beck, Steer, & Brown, 1996,
see Appendix F, p.191). The BDI-II is a well known 21-item self-report measure of
depressive symptoms that refer to mood, pessimism, feelings of failure,
dissatisfaction, guilt, social withdrawal, insomnia and somatic responses (e.g., 'I lost
any interest in other people'). Each item asks participants to endorse one of four
statements reflecting differing degrees of severity for a specific type of depressive
symptom. Each statement is accompanied by a number ranging from 0 to 3, reflecting
the relative severity of the statement. The corresponding numbers of the endorsed
statements are summed to create a total score for each participant. The BDI-II has
shown good reliability and validity (Beck et al., 1996; Dozois, Dobson, & Ahnberg,
1998). In the current study the internal consistency (Cronbachs alphas) of the scale
was high ( = .93 and = .84 for mothers and fathers, respectively).
The Beck Anxiety Inventory (BAI; Beck, Epstein, Brown, & Steer, 1988; Beck
& Steer, 1993, see Appendix F, p.194). The BAI is a 21-item self-report inventory for
measuring the severity of common symptoms of anxiety such as trembling, numbness,
inability to relax, fears, weakness, sweating and different kind of fearful responses
(e.g., difficulty in breathing, fear of losing control). Participants are asked to rate the
degree to which they have been bothered by specific anxiety-related symptoms on a
4-point scale ranging from 0 (not at all) to 3 (extremely I could barely stand it). The
scale has good reliability and validity (Beck et al., 1988). In the present study the
internal consistency (Cronbach's alphas) of this scale was = .78 and = .76 for
mothers and fathers, respectively.
Parenting Styles & Dimensions Questionnaire (PSDQ; Robinson, Mandleco,
Olsen, & Hart, 2001, see Appendix F, p.187) was used to assess parenting practices.
The PSDQ, originally called the Parenting Practices Questionnaire (PPQ; Robinson,

Mandleco, Olsen, & Hart, 1995), is a 32-item measure of self- and spouse-reported
parenting practices for parents of children. Some items were created and others were
adapted from other measures, including the Child Rearing Practices Report (CRPR;
Block, 1965). Items use a 5-point Likert scale ranging from never (1) to always (5).
The PSDQ was designed (and confirmed via factor analysis) to tap three dimensions
of parenting (authoritativeness, authoritarianism, and permissiveness), based on
Baumrinds (1971) well-known typology (Robinson et al., 1995). The measure yields
a separate, continuous score for each parenting dimension, with larger numbers
indicating increased use of parenting practices associated with a particular style. The
authoritative scale (15 items) includes subscales for connection, warmth and support,
regulation, reasoning/induction, autonomy granting and democratic participation. The
authoritarian scale (14 items) comprises subscales for verbal hostility, physical
coercion, and non-reasoning/punishment. The permissive scale (5 items) refers to
parental lack of follow through, ignoring of misbehavior, and self-confidence.
The PSDQ is used frequently in the literature and has been adapted for
effective use in numerous cultural settings (Coolahan, McWayne, Fantuzzo, & Grim,
2002; Hart, Nelson, Robinson, Olson, NcNeilly-Choque, & McKee, 2000). Only the
three overall scales for authoritativeness, authoritarianism, and permissiveness were
used in the statistical analyses. In the present study the internal consistencies were =
.80, = .74, and = .73 for the mothers' ratings and = .75, = .74, and = .70 for
the fathers' ratings for the authoritative, authoritarian, and permissive scales
respectively.
Parenting Sense of Competence (PSOC; Johnston & Mash, 1989, see
Appendix F, p.182) is a 17-item scale developed by Gibaud-Wialliston and
Wandersman (1978) to assess parental self-esteem (e.g., 'Even though being a parent

could be rewarding I am frustrated now while my child is at his/her current age').


Each item is answered on a 6-point scale ranging from strongly disagree (1) to
strongly agree (6). Higher scores indicate greater self-esteem and a greater sense of
competence. The PSOC was originally used with parents of infants, so to increase its
applicability to parents of older children, the word "child" was substituted for the
word "infant". Parents were asked to complete the PSOC with only the target child in
the family in mind (i.e., the child who had been selected for the study). The measure
has shown high internal reliability and good test-retest reliability (Cutrona and
Troutman, 1986; Gibaud-Wallston & Wandersman, 1978). In the current study, the
internal consistency (Cronbachs alphas) of this scale was = .88 and = .85 for
mothers and fathers, respectively.
Parental Willingness to Serve as a Secure Base (Kerns, Tomich, Aspelmeier,
& Contreras, 2000, see appendix F, p.183). Ten items from the Child Rearing
Practices Report (CRPR; Block, 1965) were used to assess mothers willingness to
serve as a secure base (see Kerns, Aspelmeier, Gentzler, & Grabill, 2001). Each item
is answered on a 7-point scale ranging from strongly disagree (1) to strongly agree
(7). Higher scores indicate greater willingness to serve as a secure base in the parentchild relationship. Sample items are I respect my childs opinions and encourage
him/her to express them and I encourage my child to talk about his/her troubles.
This scale has been demonstrated to show good reliability and validity. Kerns,
Klepac, & Cole (1996) and Kerns et al. (2000) reported that mothers reports had
acceptable alphas and were related to child reports of security. Parental rating on this
scale in the present study demonstrated adequate internal consistency, Cronbach's
alphas = .82 and = .75 for mothers and fathers, respectively.

Chapter 3: Results
3.1 Overview of Statistical Analyses
We first conducted correlation analyses to examine the main hypotheses of the
study. Next we examined differences among groups of participants that differed in
their degree of fearlessness according to Time 1 assessment (three fearlessness
groups: high, moderate, low) and to Time 2 assessment (two fearlessness groups:
high, moderate). Finally, we examined the possibility that hyperactivity and
impulsivity confounded the effects of fearlessness by running hierarchical regression
analyses for the socio-emotional outcomes.
3.2 Fearlessness: Examination of Consistency across Stimuli and Context and
Stability across Time
We expected that the different indicators of behavioral fearlessness would be
moderately interrelated and stable across types of stimuli in the lab procedure (motor,
auditory, social), across different contexts (laboratory, home and preschool) and
across reporters (mothers, fathers, preschool teachers) and stable across time (two
assessments, one year apart). Table 1 presents Pearson correlations among the
different indicators of fearlessness in the laboratory procedure.
As can be seen in Table 1, there were significant correlations (moderate to
high in magnitude) between the various indicators of fearlessness, indicating
similarity across types of fearlessness-arousing stimuli. Based upon this finding, we
computed a general score of fearlessness as exhibited in the lab procedure by

averaging across the different stimuli. The internal consistency of the general
laboratory fearlessness score in this study was high, Cronbachs = .95.

Table 1
Pearson Correlations among the Different Indicators of Fearlessness (motor, visual,
social and auditory) Assessed in the Laboratory Procedure at Time 1
Indicators of Fearlessness
Climbing
Steps

Jack-inthe-Box

(Motor)

(Visual)

Exploration
of Black
Box
(Visual)

Clown
Mask &
Costume
(Social)

Jack-in-theBox

.70**

Exploration
of Black
Box

.71 **

.68**

Clown
Mask &
Costume

.67**

.70**

.66**

Separation
from
Mother

.60**

.62**

.52**

.38**

.65**

.58**

.64**

Vacuum
.62**
Cleaner
*p<.05 **p<.01, n=80

Separation
from
Mother
(Social)

Vacuum
Cleaner
(Auditory)

.51**

Table 2 presents Pearson correlations among indicators of fearlessness as


assessed in the different contexts (laboratory, home and preschool) and by different
reporters.

As shown in Table 2, there were significant correlations (moderate to high in


magnitude) between the different sources and across contexts, demonstrating a high
stability across reporters and contexts.

Table 2
Pearson Correlations between Indicators of Fearlessness at Time 1

Indicators of Fearlessness
Preschool
Teacher's
Report

Mother's
Report

Father's
Report

Laboratory
General
Score Time 1

n=80

n=80

n=73

n=80

Preschool
Teacher's
Report
Mother's
Report

.72**

Father's
Report

.75**

.69**

Laboratory
General Score
*p<.05 **p<.01

.65**

.67**

.53**

Table 3 presents Pearson correlations computed between Time 1 and Time 2


assessments to examine stability over time. There were moderate to high correlation
coefficients among the sources at Time 2 (mothers, fathers and general laboratory
score at Time 2), replicating the finding at Time 1. Additionally, all correlations
between Time 1 indicators and Time 2 indicators were significant except for one

(between mother's report at Time 1 and father's report at Time 2), and most were
moderate in magnitude, demonstrating moderate stability across a one-year interval.
3.3 Examination of Physiological Variables
In this study we tried to highlight some of the physiological correlates of
fearlessness by examining the association between fearlessness, resting heart rate and
heart rate variability. We assumed that behavioral fearlessness would be associated
with lower resting heart rate and higher heart rate variability.
Table 3
Pearson Correlations between Indicators of Fearlessness at Time 1 and Time 2

Indicators of Fearlessness
Mother's
Report
Time 2

Father's
Report
Time 2

Laboratory
General
Score
Time 2

n=43

n=42

n=43

Time 1
Preschool teacher's report

.31*

.21*

.36**

Mother's report

.36*

.16

.38**

Father's report

.31*

.36*

.39**

Laboratory General Score

.43**

.19*

.33*

Time 2
Mother's report
Father's report

.73**

Laboratory General Score

.54**

.42**

*p<.05 **p<.01

Unfortunately, we were able to generate reliable coding of physiological


readings for only 50 children who participated in the study. Therefore, the statistical

analyses pertaining to the hypothesis regarding physiological underpinnings of


fearlessness present only partial examination of this hypothesis. Table 4 presents
Pearson correlations between the different indicators of fearlessness and the
physiological measures (resting heart rate and heart rate variability). With regard to
resting heart rate as expected there was a moderate negative correlation between the
preschool teacher's report concerning fearlessness and resting heart rate. The other
correlations were not significant, though they were in the expected direction (all
negative).

Table 4
Pearson Correlations between Indicators of Fearlessness and Heart Rate Variables at
Time 1
Indicators of Fearlessness
Preschools
Teacher's
Report

Mother's
Report

Father's
Report

n=50

n=47

n=43

Laboratory
General
Score
Time 1
n=50

Heart rate
variables
Resting Heart

-.29*

-.15

-.21

-.17

.32*

.35*

.06

.28*

Rate
Heart Rate
Variability
*p<.05

In addition, as expected correlations between heart rate variability and


fearlessness assessed in the laboratory (general laboratory score Time 1) and reported
by preschool teachers and mothers were positive and significant. The correlation

between heart rate variability and father's report of fearlessness was not significant.
Thus, we found partial support for the hypothesis that fearlessness would be
associated with lower resting heart rate and with higher heart rate variability.
3.4 Examination of Emotion Expression Recognition
In this study we wanted to gain some understanding of the complex socioemotional profile associated with fearlessness. We assumed that fearlessness would
be associated with (1) lower capacity to recognize distress emotions (e.g., fear),
(2) lower levels of empathy and prosocial behavior, (3) higher levels of
aggressiveness and antisocial tendency, and (4) higher sociability. Table 5 and Table
6 present Pearson correlations between the different indicators of fearlessness at Time
1 and recognition of emotional expression as assessed at Time 1 and Time 2.
As Table 5 shows, there were significant positive correlations between the
different indicators of fearlessness and the number of errors in identifying facial
expression of fear at Time 1. This finding is consistent across all of the different
indicators of fearlessness. In addition, there were several other significant correlations
which were not consistent across the various indicators of fearlessness. Father's report
of fearlessness was positively associated with higher number of errors identifying
anger. Preschool teacher's report of fearlessness was significantly associated with
lower number of errors identifying joy and with lower number of errors identifying
surprise. Mother's report of fearlessness was significantly associated with lower
number of errors identifying surprise, and the laboratory observation of fearlessness
was significantly associated with lower number of errors identifying joy.
As can be seen in Table 6, there were significant negative correlations
between the different indicators of fearlessness and number of correct identifications
of fearful facial expression on the first guess at Time 2. This finding is consistent

across all the different indicators of fearlessness. In addition, there were other
significant correlations concerning lower number of correct identifications of anger
expressions on the second guess (r = -.33* with preschool teacher's report and lab
observation), and of expressions of joy on the first guess (r = -.42* with father's
report), but these were not consistent across fearlessness indicators.

Table 5
Pearson Correlations between Indicators of Fearlessness at Time 1 and Emotion
Expression Recognition at Time 1
Indicators of Fearlessness

Preschool
Teacher's
Report

Mother's
Report

Father's
Report

Laboratory
General
Score Time 1

n=80

n=80

n=73

n=80

Errors in
Emotion
Expression
Recognition
Anger

-.03

.13

.27**

.09

Disgust

-.16

-.09

-.05

-.08

Fear

.29**

.31**

.37**

.23*

Joy

-.24**

-.21

-.12

-.24*

Sadness

-.11

-.13

.08

-.16

Surprise

-.35**

-.26**

-.17

-.19

*p<.05 **p<.01

3.5 Socio-Emotional Characteristics


Empathy and Prosocial Behavior
We assumed that fearlessness would be correlated negatively with levels of
empathy and prosocial behavior. Table 7 presents Pearson correlations between the
different indicators of fearlessness and empathy (general empathy score from
laboratory observation) and prosocial behavior (preschool teachers' and parents'
report, general prosocial score from laboratory observation) at Time 1 and different
indicators of fearlessness and empathy at Time 2 (moral dilemma stories).
Table 6
Pearson Correlations between Indicators of Fearlessness at Time 1 and Recognition of
Emotions at Time 2
Indicators of Fearlessness
Preschool
Teacher's
Report

Mother's
Report

Father's
Report

Laboratory
General
Score
Time 1

.26

.21

.08

.09

Correct recognition of anger- second


guess

-.33*

-.29

-.17

-.33*

Correct recognition of fear- first


guess

-.38*

-.49**

-.41*

-.40*

.04

.04

.05

.14

-.21

-.04

-.42*

-.08

.24

.21

.09

.12

Correct Emotional Expression


Recognition
n=43
Correct recognition of anger- first
guess

Correct recognition of fear- second


guess
Correct recognition of joy- first
guess
Correct recognition of joy- second
guess

Correct recognition of sadness - first


guess

-.24

-.11

-.28

-.15

Correct recognition of sadness second guess

-.19

-.24

-.13

-.15

*p<.05 **p<.01

As can be seen in Table 7, there were significant correlations between the


different indicators of fearlessness and empathy as assessed by the laboratory
procedure at Time 1. This correlation was consistent and similar across all the
indicators of fearlessness (r = -.29** with preschool teacher's report, r = -.27** with
Table 7
Pearson Correlations between Fearlessness and Indicators of Empathy and Prosocial
Behavior at Time 1 and Empathy at Time 2
Indicators of Fearlessness
Preschool
Teacher's
Report

Mother's
Report

Father's
Report

n=80

n=80

n=73

Laboratory
General
Score
Time 1
n=80

-.29**

-.27**

-.28*

-.30**

-.22**

-.25*

-.29*

-.34**

-.17

-.07

-.21*

-.25*

-.27*

-.17

-.19

-.27**

Indicators of Empathy and


Prosocial Behavior
Time 1
Empathy
Empathy (Laboratory
General Score)
Prosocial Behavior
Preschool Teacher's ReportProsocial (CBS)
Mother's ReportProsocial (CBS)
Father's ReportProsocial (CBS)

Prosocial (Laboratory

-.15

-.17

-.28*

-.23*

-.44**

-.47**

-.50**

-.45**

.32*

.25*

.08

.33*

General Score)
Indicators of Empathy
(Moral Dilemmas Stories)
Time 2; N=43

Empathy
Justification of Transgression
*p<.05 **p<.01

mother's report, r = -.28* with father's report, and r = -.30** with the laboratory
indicator of fearlessness). Further, as expected there were significant negative
correlations between the different indicators of fearlessness and prosocial behavior as
assessed by the questionnaires filled out by different reporters (mother, father and
preschool teacher) (CBS; Ladd & Profilet, 1996). Interestingly, only for the laboratory
general score of fearlessness these associations were consistently significant across all
the reporters of pro-social behavior. Further, only the report by the preschool teacher
regarding prosocial behavior was consistently negatively associated as expected with
all indicators of fearlessness. For other indicators of fearlessness and reporters of
proscial behavior only some of the correlations were significant as expected though
all were negative.
In addition, as showed in Table 7, at Time 2 all indicators of fearlessness were
significantly correlated with a lower degree of empathy as assessed in the Empathy
and Moral Dilemma Stories (r = -.44** with preschool teacher, r = -.47** with
mother's report, r = -.50** with father's report, and r = -.45** with laboratory
observation of fearlessness). In addition, all indicators of fearlessness except fathers'

report were significantly correlated with greater justification of transgression (r =


.32** with preschool teacher's report, r = .25* with mother's report, r = .33* with
laboratory observation).
Aggressiveness and Severe Antisocial Tendency
Table 8 presents Pearson correlations between the different indicators of
fearlessness and measures of aggressiveness and severe antisocial tendency. As can be
seen in Table 9, aggressiveness and severe antisocial tendency were consistently and
positively associated as expected with indicators of fearlessness (correlations ranged
from r = .27** to r = .57**).
Table 8
Pearson Correlations between Indicators of Fearlessness at Time 1 and Antisocial
Tendency and Aggressiveness at Time 1
Indicators of Fearlessness
Preschool

Mother's

Teacher's

Report

Father's Laboratory
Report

Report

General
Score
Time 1

n=80

n=80

n=73

n=80

Aggressiveness (CBS+CBCL)

.47**

.41**

.46**

.37**

Severe Antisocial Tendency


(APSD)

.38**

.36**

.36**

.45**

Aggressiveness (CBS+CBCL)

.37**

.36**

.47**

.41**

Antisocial Tendency (APSD)

.32**

.27*

.35**

.47**

Indicators of Aggressiveness and


Severe Antisocial Tendency
Preschool Teacher's Report

Mother's Report

Father's Report
Aggressiveness (CBS+CBCL)

.45**

.39**

.57**

.55**

Antisocial Tendency (APSD)

.31**

.21*

.35**

.32**

*p<.05 **p<.01

Sociability
In this study we expected that fearlessness would be positively associated with
sociability. As can be seen in Table 9, there were significant positive correlations

Table 9
Pearson Correlations between Indicators of Fearlessness at Time 1 and Social
Variables at Time 1
Indicators of Fearlessness

Sociability

Preschool
Teacher's
Report

Mother's
Report

Father's
Report

N=80

n=80

n=73

Laboratory
General
Score
Time 1
n=80

Preschool Teacher's report (CBS)

.60**

.39**

.35**

.52**

Mothers' report (CBS)

.50**

.47**

.47**

.46**

Fathers report (CBS)

.42**

.32**

.52**

.34**

*p<.05 **p<.01

between the different indicators of fearlessness and sociability across all reporters and
the laboratory procedure.

3.6 Time 1- Comparing Three Groups of Fearlessness (high, moderate, low)


The correlations presented in previous sections provide a general
understanding of how various variables were associated with fearlessness while using
the entire fearless behavior continuum. Nevertheless, this statistical method does not
enable us to determine the source of the variance driving the significant correlations.
It might be argued that the significant correlations are driven by the differences
between the high levels of fearlessness and the low levels of fearlessness and that the
findings reflect the characteristics of low fearlessness. To overcome this optional bias,
we sought to examine whether children high in fearlessness are the ones who are
differentiated from the rest of the other children who participated in the study. To
examine this possibility, we divided the sample to three thirds based on their
fearlessness scores: top, medium and low third (n = 28 19 boys and 9 girls), n = 27
(17 boys and 10 girls, n = 25, 13 boys and 12 girls respectively). This division was
based on their general fearlessness score which was calculated by averaging across
fearlessness scores obtained from parent's and teacher's reports and the laboratory
observation, after normalizing each of the four indicators. To examine possible
differences among these groups (high, moderate and low in fearlessness) we
conducted several MANOVAs (see Table 10) on the relevant dependent variables
(those which were significant in the correlation analyses).
For the hypothesis concerning fearlessness and physiological measures, we
only used the high and moderate groups. As described in previous sections we were
only able to obtain 50 complete "clean" records of heart rate activity and the number
of participants in each group were as follows: n = 5 in the low group, n = 22 in the
moderate group, and n = 23 in the high fearlessness group. Since the number of the
participant in the low fearlessness was too low (n = 5) we removed their data from the

analyses and compared only the high and the moderate groups. None of these analyses
was significant.
To examine our hypothesis concerning socio-emotional characteristics, we
conducted ten different MANOVAS followed by ANOVAS and post hoc Duncan
tests when applicable, as can be seen in Table 10. The MANOVA regarding errors in
emotional recognition in Time 1 was significant (Wilks = .59, F(2,79) = 4.34*** , p
<.001). Of the different ANOVAS two were significant: recognition of fear (F(2, 79)
= 13.04, p < .001) and recognition of joy (F(2,79) = 3.42, p < .05). The high
fearlessness group showed more errors in fear recognition than the two other groups
(Duncan, p<.001) and the low fearlessness group showed more errors in joy
recognition than the two other groups (Duncan, p<.05)
The MANOVA conducted with the three groups of fearlessness and the
indices of empathy and prosocial behavior was significant (Wilks = .75, F(2,73) =
3.82 ; p <.001). Post hoc tests (Duncan, p<.05) showed that in all of the indices except
mother's and father's report on the child prosocial behavior the group of highly
fearless children was characterized by lower empathy and prosocial behavior
compared to children in the moderate and low groups.
The MANOVA conducted with the three groups of fearlessness and the
indices of aggressiveness was also significant (Wilks = .57, F (2,73) = 7.46, p <.001).
Post hoc tests showed that the fearless group was significantly higher than the other
two groups on aggressiveness. Additionally, the MANOVA conducted with severe
antisocial tendency was significant (Wilks=.66, F (2,72) = 5.08, p <.001), revealing
that children in the high fearless group were more likely to exhibit severe antisocial
tendencies compared to those in the moderate and low fearless groups. For the
measures of sociability the MANOVA was significant (Wilks= .57, F (2,72) = 5.08,

p<.001). However, the high fearless group was not significantly different from the
moderate fearless group and in fact the lowest degree of sociability was exhibited by
the group with low fearlessness. Table 10 presents the results of these analyses with
Time 1 socio-emotional characteristics. To examine the possible moderating effects of
gender we conducted two-way MANOVAs on these socio-emotional characteristics
with gender and groups of fearlessness as independent variables. The interaction with
gender was not significant in any of these variables demonstrating that gender did not
moderate any of these effects.
3.7 Time 2 Comparison of High and Moderate Fearlessness
The MANOVA conducted on the two groups of fearlessness in Time 2
(moderate and high) and the indices of recognition of fear as assessed by the
Emotional Expression Multimorph task was significant (F(1,39)=28.4, p<.001) and so
was the MANOVA with indices of empathy as assessed by moral dilemma stories
(Wilks = .43, F(4,38) = 10.61, p <.001). None of the other MANOVAs was
significant.

Table 10
Differences between High, Moderate and Low Fearlessness Groups on SocioEmotional Characteristics at Time1
Low
Moderate
High
Fearlessness Fearlessness Fearlessness
N=25
N=27
N=28

Dependent Variables
at Time 1
Errors in Emotional
Recognition
Errors in Emotional
Recognition of Anger

M
S.D

1.38
(.49)

1.34
(.48)

1.42
(.51)

.95

Errors in Emotional
Recognition of Disgust

M
S.D

1.82
(.39)

1.73
(.45)

1.78
(.42)

.26

Errors in Emotional
Recognition of Fear

M
S.D

1.13b
(.49)

1.34b
(.48)

1.77a
(.51)

14.24***

df=2,73

Errors in Emotional
Recognition of Joy

M
S.D

1.29a
(.47)

1.03b
(.20)

1.15b
(.51)

3.42**

Errors in Emotional
Recognition of Sadness

M
S.D

1.56
(.51)

1.52
(.37)

1.61
(.49)

.15

Errors in Emotional
Recognition of Surprise

M
S.D

1.66
(.32)

1.77
(.43)

1.79
(.51)

.27

Empathy and Prosocial


Behavior
Prosocial -Preschool
Teacher's Report (CBS)
Prosocial -Mother's
Report (CBS)
Prosocial -Father's
Report (CBS)
Prosocial General
Laboratory Score
Empathy General
Laboratory Score

M
S.D
M
S.D
M
S.D
M
S.D
M
S.D

2.28b
(.24)
2.70
(.19)
2.63
(.23)
3.37b
(.67)
2.68b
(1.40)

2.583b
(.45)
2.76
(.29)
2.78
(.29)
3.61b
(.76)
3.33b
(.65)

2.63a
(.40)
2.83
(.29)
2.7
(.33)
2.27a
(.89)
2.01a
(.33)

6.71**

Aggressiveness
Preschool Teacher's Report
(CBCL+CBS)
Mother's Report
(CBCL+CBS)
Father's Report
(CBCL+CBS)

M
S.D
M
S.D
M
S.D

-.66b
(.29)
-.52b
(.43)
-.58b
(.41)

-.08b
(.79)
-.31b
(.65)
-.21b
(.73)

.74a
(1.08)
.82a
(1.07)
.75a
(.99)

19.0***

M
S.D
M
S.D
M
S.D

.29b
(.14)
.21b
(.18)
.23b
(.17)

.32b
(.25)
.29b
(.17)
.31b
(.25)

.61a
(.29)
.46a
(.21)
.51a
(.30)

Severe Antisocial
Tendency
Preschool Teacher's Report
(APSD)
Mother's Report (APSD)
Father's Report (APSD)
Sociability
Preschool Teacher's Report
(CBS)
Mother's Report (CBS)

1.51
2.29
3.40*
3.07*

17.86***
20.17***

14.04***
9.77***
8.57***

M
2.51a
2.87b
2.92b
16.64***
S.D
(.37)
(.23)
(.17)
M
2.62a
2.91b
2.95b
10.20***
S.D
(.44)
(.16)
(.15)
Father's Report (CBS)
M
2.68a
2.92b
2.97b
7.38**
S.D
(.47)
(.12)
(.09)
Note: Means in the same row that do not share the same superscript are significantly
different, (Duncan, p<.05) *p<.05 **p<.01 ***p<.001

At Time 2 children in the high fearlessness group exhibited significant


difficulty in identifying fearful emotional expressions at the first guess and were
significantly less empathic than those in the moderate group as shown in Table 11 but
did not differ from the moderate group on correct identification of fear at the final
decision and on justification of transgression.
3.8 Intervening Variables
Demographic and Background Information and Parenting Variables
We carried out several analyses to examine whether there are significant
associations between the background variables and the independent variables (i.e.,
fearlessness). We examined several major background variables, including gender,
age, SES, parents' education, family status, birth order of the child and number of
siblings, immigration status, normal child development, and stressful life events.

Table 11
Differences between High, and Moderate Fearlessness Groups on Socio-Emotional
Characteristics at Time 2
Dependent Variables
at Time 2
Correct Emotional Recognition
Correct Emotional Recognition
Anger First Guess

Moderate
High
Fearlessness Fearlessness
N=22
N=21

F
df=1,41

M
S.D

3.95
(.75)

3.77
(.75)

.42

Correct Emotional Recognition of M


S.D
Anger Second Guess

4.04
(.75)

3.71
(.47)

.11

Correct Emotional Recognition of Fear


First Guess

M
S.D

2.91
(.91)

2.01
(.52)

7.03*

Correct Emotional Recognition of Fear


Second Guess

M
S.D

4.71
(.79)

5.56
(7.3)

2.17

Correct Emotional Recognition of Joy


First Guess

M
S.D

4.21
(.72)

3.64
(.70)

.02

of

M
S.D

4.25
(.74)

4.18
(.64)

.74

Correct Emotional Recognition of Sad


First Guess

M
S.D

2.88
(1.03)

2.71
(.85)

.58

Correct Emotional Recognition of Sad


Second Guess

M
S.D

4.04
(3.05)

3.06
(.75)

.20

M
S.D

2.25
(.55)

1.41
(.23)

34.5***

M
S.D

2.43
(.60)

2.59
(.52)

.39

Correct Emotional Recognition of Joy


Second Guess

Moral Dilemmas Stories


Empathy
Justification of Transgression
*p<.05 **p<.01

None of these variables was significantly associated with fearlessness


indicators. To further explore whether gender is differently associated with
fearlessness at different levels of fearlessness we conducted MANOVA with gender
and fearlessness groups serving as the independent variables and fearlessness indices
as the dependent variables. In all of these analyses, the main effect of gender and the
interactions between gender and the three groups of fearlessness were not significant
across Time 1 and Time 2. These findings are similar to those of Kagan and his
colleagues (Garcia Coill, Kagan, & Reznick, 1984; Kagan, Reznick, Clarke, Snidman
& Garcia-Coll, 1984) regarding non significant gender differences between boys and
girls that were characterized by inhibited behavior .
We also examined the association between fearlessness and several parental
variables such as mental health, depression, anxiety, parenting styles and practices,
parenting sense of competence and parental willingness to serve as a secure base but
none of the correlations were significant.

Temperament
We sought to examine how fearlessness, which is assumed to reflect a
temperamental dimension, is related to the major known temperamental dimensions.
We examined temperament by means of parental ratings of the childs temperament
using the Childrens Behavior Questionnaire (the CBQ 3-7 years short form, Rothbart
et al., 2001), which is one of the most prevalent measures of temperament for toddlers
and assesses the big three-factor model of temperament. For these three factors, and
for data reduction purposes we combined mothers' and fathers' reports, which were
moderately to highly correlated (correlation coefficients ranged from .55 to. 78), by
computing their means.
As can be seen in Table 12, there were moderate to high significant
correlations between the different indicators of fearlessness and the three
temperament dimensions (combined scores for mother and father reports). There was
a consistent positive correlation between the indicators of fearlessness and the
surgency dimension (correlations ranged from r = .27* to r = .40**), and there were
consistent negative correlations with the negative affectivity dimension (correlations
ranged from r = -.38** to r = -.46**) and with effortful control (correlations ranged
from r = -.56** to r = -.61**). Together these results show that fearlessness is
moderately to highly associate with the three major temperament dimensions, yet is
not equivalent to either of them suggesting that fearlessness is strongly based as a
temperament trait but is not reduced to one of the three big dimensions of
temperament.

Table 12
Pearson Correlations between Fearlessness indicators at Time 1 and Temperamental
Dimensions

Indicators of Fearlessness
Preschool
Teacher's
Report

Mother's
Report

n=80

n=80

n=73

n=80

.28*

.27*

.30*

.40**

Negative Affectivity

-.46**

-.38**

-.46**

-.39**

Effortful Control

-.56**

-.57**

-.58**

-.61**

Temperament Dimensions
(combined variable for father's
and mother's report)
Three Big
Factors
Temperament
(by Rothbart et al., 1994)
Surgency

Father's
General
Report Laboratory
Score
Time 1

of

*p<.05 **p<.01

Chart number 1 which is based on Multidimensional Scaling Analysis portrays


a graphical presentation of the interrelations among the three temperament dimensions
the different indicators of fearlessness. This statistical method attempts to find the
structure in a set of distance measures between objects or cases. This task is
accomplished by assigning observations to specific locations in a conceptual space
(usually two- or three-dimensional) such that the distances between points in the
space match the given dissimilarities as closely as possible. Multidimensional scaling
can also be applied to subjective ratings of dissimilarity between objects or concepts
and can handle dissimilarity data from multiple sources, as might occur with multiple
raters or questionnaire respondents. Chart number 1 exhibit the distances (reflecting
the conceptual dissimilarities) among the three big factors of temperament and the
four indicators of fearlessness. The chart demonstrates that fearlessness is somewhat
opposite to negative affectivity and is discriminated from the other two factors.

Hyperactivity and Impulsivity


The next analyses were related to the possible effect of hyperactivity and
impulsivity. Some of the features of fearlessness (e.g. eagerness to explore) can be
related to the presence of hyperactivity and impulsivity. To clarify whether
fearlessness is distinct from hyperactivity and impulsivity despite having common
features, we used regression analyses that enable us to predict whether the
associations between fearlessness and socio-emotional characteristics remain
significant after removing the possible effects of hyperactivity and impulsivity. A
series of three-step hierarchical multiple regression analyses were used to test the
effects of age of the child, sex of the child, education of parents, fearlessness and
hyperactivity and impulsivity of the child in predicting the socio-emotional
characteristics measures. In the first step, age, gender, and parental education were
entered.

The hyperactivity-impulsivity variable was added in the second step

(Conners, Sitarenios, Parker, & Epstein, 1998), and fearlessness variables were added
in the third step. Each regression was conducted separately with the five different
socio-emotional variables as dependent variables

Chart 1
Spatial Depiction of the Interrelations among the Three Big Factors of Temperament
and Indicators of Fearlessness

0.8
Effortful Control
0.6

0.2 Preschool fearless

Father fearless
Negative Affectivity

0.0

Mother fearless

-0.2
Observation Fearless
Surgency

-0.4

-3

-2

-1

(emotion recognition of fear, prosocial behavior, empathy, aggressiveness, antisocial


tendency, and sociability).We computed a general score for each dependent or
independent variable as follows. A combined general score for fearlessness was
calculated as a mean of the four indicators: parents report, teachers' report and
observation - general score. Because the scales were not identical, we normalized the
scales using the Z score. Further, a combined score was calculated for (1) Errors in
fear recognition at Time 1 and for correct emotional recognition of fear first guess at
Time 2, (2) parents' and teachers' report on Prosocial Behavior (CBS+ Prosocial
General Laboratory Score), (3) Empathy (Empathy general observation score at Time 1

and Empathy in moral dilemmas stories at Time 2), (4) Aggressiveness


(CBS+CBCL), (5) Severe Antisocial Tendency (APSD), (6) and Sociability (CBS).
The results of the regression analyses predicting the general combined scores
of the socio-emotional measures are shown in Table 13. Fearlessness predicted higher
levels of errors in fear emotional recognition, over and above what was predicted by
hyperactivity and impulsivity and by background variables In Time 1 and in Time 2
as well (std beta = .42, p < .001; std beta = .61, p < .001 respectively). Similarly,
fearlessness predicted lower levels of prosocial behavior based on parental and
teacher's report and observation at Time 1 and lower levels of empathy in laboratory
observation at Time 1 and in Time 2, respectively, over and above what was predicted
by hyperactivity and impulsivity, and by background variables (std beta = .17, p < .05
; std beta = .26, p < .05; std beta = .62, p < .001). Similarly the regression analyses
reveal that fearlessness also predicted aggressiveness and severe antisocial tendency
as reported by teacher's and parents at Time 1, respectively, over and above what was
predicted by hyperactivity and impulsivity, and by background variables (std beta =
.27, p < .001; std beta = .22, p < .05 respectively). Finally, combined score of
sociability based on preschool teacher and parental report at Time 1, was predicted by
fearlessness over and above what was predicted by hyperactivity and impulsivity, and
by background variables (std beta = .72, p < .001).

Table 13
Hierarchical Regression Analyses: Prediction of Socio-Emotional Characteristics by
Impulsivity, Hyperactivity and Fearlessness
Step and predictors

df

R2

Step and predictors

df

R2

.06

3,75

.00

.82

1,74

.01

10.89**

1.73

.13

2.41*

5,73

.14

1.61

3,37

.34

1.23

4,36

.35

4.58**

5,35

.63

Errors in Fear Recognition (Time 1)


First step
Age

.02

Gender

.00

Education

.04

Second step
Age

.01

Gender

.03

Education

.03

Hyperactivity & Impulsivity

.11

Third step
Age

.11

Gender

.05

Education

.01

Hyperactivity & Impulsivity

.04

Fearlessness

.42***

Final model

Correct Emotional
Recognition of Fear
First Guess (Time 2)
First step
Age

.11

Gender

.32*

Education

.09

Second step
Age

.11

Gender

.30

Education

.09

Hyperactivity & Impulsivity

.08

Third step
Age

.29*

Gender

.28

Education

.13

Hyperactivity & Impulsivity

.15

Fearlessness

.61***

Step and predictors

Final model

df

R2

2.89**

5,37

.26

2.36

3,75

.09

8.67**

1.74

.10

1.84

1,73

.02

3.70**

5,73

.20

1.47

3,75

.06

1.02

1,74

.01

4.03*

1,73

.05

Prosocial Behavior (Parents and Teachers'


reports+ General laboratory score)
First step
Age

.26*

Gender

.14

Education

.03

Second step
Age

.23*

Gender

.06

Education

.07

Hyperactivity & Impulsivity

.33**

Third step
Age

.19

Gender

.05

Education

.08

Hyperactivity & Impulsivity

.26*

Fearlessness

.17*

Final model
Empathy (General laboratory score Time 1)
First step
Age

.20

Gender

.12

Education

.02

Second step
Age

.19

Gender

.09

Education

.03

Hyperactivity & Impulsivity

.12

Third step
Age

.12

Gender

.08

Education

.05

Hyperactivity & Impulsivity

.02

Fearlessness

.26*

Step and predictors

Final model

df

R2

1.93*

5,73

.12

1.21

3,39

.21

3.29*

4,38

.05

8.83***

5,37

.02

4.99***

5,37

.09

3.47**

3,74

.122

Empathy (Moral Dilemmas Stories Time 2)


First step
Age

.03

Gender

.29

Education

.02

Second step
Age

.01*

Gender

.18

Education

.06

Hyperactivity & Impulsivity

.44**

Third step
Age

.18

Gender

.16

Education

.09

Hyperactivity & Impulsivity

.21

Fearlessness

.62***

Final model
Aggressiveness (Parents and Teachers'
reports)
First step
Age

.24*

Gender

.20

Education

.10

Second step
Age

.18**

Gender

.00

Education

.01

Hyperactivity & Impulsivity

.80***

Third step
Age

.10

Gender

.01

Education

.00

Hyperactivity & Impulsivity

.69***

Fearlessness

.27***

134.60*** 1,74

.57

14.56***

.05

1,73

Step and predictors

Final model

df

R2

41.62***

5,73

.74

3.77*

3,75

.13

53.45***

1,74

.37

5.43*

1,73

.04

16.49***

5,73

.53

Severe Antisocial Tendency


(Parents and Teachers' reports)
First step
Age

.26*

Gender

.18

Education

.10

Second step
Age

.10

Gender

.02

Education

.02

Hyperactivity & Impulsivity

.63***

Third step
Age

.15

Gender

.02

Education

.02

Hyperactivity & Impulsivity

.55***

Fearlessness

.22*

Final model
Sociability (Parents and Teachers' reports)
First step
Age

.13

Education

.08

Second step
Age

.23

Gender

.18

Education

.06

Hyperactivity & Impulsivity

.18

Third step
Gender

.03
.20*

Education

.03

Hyperactivity & Impulsivity

.09

Fearlessness

3,75

.09

2.39

1,74

03.

56.51***

1,73

.39

12.

Gender

Age

2.40

.72***

Step and predictors


Final model

F
14.71***

R2

df
5,73

.50

Note: *p<.05 **p<.01 ***p<.001

3.9 Results Summary


Overall, there were high associations between the different indicators of
fearlessness (parents' and preschool teachers' reports and observations in a laboratory
procedure) and across two points in time. Further, fearlessness was partly associated
as expected with physiology measures reflecting the activation of the approach
behavioral system (resting heart rate and heart rate variability), though the
significance of this finding is restricted because of the difficulty in taking
physiological measurements among the young children in our sample. In addition,
fearlessness was associated with lower sensitivity in recognizing fearful emotional
expressions, with lower rates of empathy and prosocial behavior, with higher rates of
aggressiveness and severe antisocial tendency, and with higher rates of sociability.
SES, gender and other demographic variables as well as parenting variables were not
associated with fearlessness. The findings persisted after controlling for hyperactivity
and impulsivity.

Chapter 4: Discussion
4.1 Introduction
In this study, we examined whether fearlessness can be identified by different
sources (e.g., preschool teachers, mothers and fathers) and in different contexts
(school, home and laboratory) in a sample of 80 pre-school children. Further, we
examined the stability of this behavior over a one-year interval between two
assessments and examined physiological markers that can illuminate the mechanism
underlying fearless behavior. We also sought to determine whether fearlessness is
associated with certain socio-emotional characteristics, such as identification of fear
expressions, empathy and prosocial behavior, aggression and antisocial tendency, and
sociability. The discussion is organized according to the main goals of the study. In
each section, the results are addressed first, followed by a discussion relating past
work to the current data. In the final sections we address the strengths of the research,
its limitations, suggest future avenues for research and reflect on possible clinical
implications.
4.2 Fearless Behavior
The first goal of this study was to investigate in young children the existence
and nature of fearless behavior marked by high approach and boldness in the face of
presumably fear-eliciting stimuli. For this purpose we used a previously developed
questionnaire (BIS, Frick, 2001), and also developed laboratory observations using
different kinds of episodes to elicit approach behavior in the face of fear-eliciting
stimuli of different kinds (auditory, visual, social, motor). The reports on the
questionnaire by different reporters as well as the laboratory procedure produced clear
individual differences in fearlessness and enabled us to identify children at the
preschool age characterized by high levels of fearlessness as well as those showing

moderate and low levels of fearless behavior. The robust nature of this fearless
behavior can clearly be seen in the strong internal reliability of the measures that
included reference to different stimuli used to index this behavioral characteristic,
namely motor, visual, social, and auditory fear-eliciting stimuli. This consistency
across kinds of stimuli reinforces the reliability of the questionnaire and the
observation and points to the possibility that the tendency to approach fear-eliciting
stimuli is general across different types of stimuli in different modalities.
Furthermore, the tendency to approach rather than be inhibited in the face of
fear-eliciting stimuli in a number of contexts (preschool, home, and laboratory)
appeared

to

be

highly

consistent

and

similarly

identified

by

different

observers/sources. This similarity across the different contexts and sources in this
study reinforces our assumption that fearlessness is a consistent behavior that can be
recognized by different sources in different contexts of the young children's lives.
In addition, the moderate to high stability of fearless behavior over a one-year
span indicates the stable nature of this behavior. Temperamental traits are typically
moderately stable over time, with correlations in the range of .2 to .4 (see Slabach,
Morrow, & Wachs, 1991). In this study the stability was at the same range, within
reporters and contexts but also across contexts and reporters (i.e., mother's report at
Time 1 with Laboratory procedure at Time 2). This level of stability in the present
study is highly significant and remarkable due to the fact that only children from the
high fearlessness and moderate fearlessness groups were included at Time 2 to avoid
bias resulting from the low fearlessness group. Therefore, such stability can be
attributed to the continuity of strong approach behavior in the face of fear-eliciting
stimuli during early childhood separate from the issue of stability of fearful or
inhibited behavior which was addressed by other researchers (Fox, & Henderson,

1999; Kagan, 2008). Given the success of this attempt to discriminate strong approach
behavior from inhibition during early childhood, further longitudinal work is
warranted to determine whether fearless behavior is also stable in middle childhood.
Even these relatively moderate stability coefficients imply a considerable amount of
change in childrens temperament over time (Putnam, Sanson, & Rothbart, 2002).
4.3 Fearlessness and Physiological Responses
In this study, we sought to investigate whether fearlessness is associated with
the parasympathetic system, and would correlate with some of its central
physiological features: lower resting heart rate and higher heart rate variability. The
results associated with this research goal were partly corroborated. There were some
significant correlations supporting our assumptions. Specifically for some of the
indicators of fearlessness but not for all of them, fearlessness was associated as
expected with lower resting heart rate and higher heart rate variability. The few
significant correlations that emerged were fairly small, although all were in the
hypothesized directions. Furthermore, all of the non-significant correlations were also
in the predicted directions. These results are encouraging and provide a first
promising indication that fearlessness is associated with the operation of the
parasympathetic system. Yet, it is clear that this indication is only partial and
preliminary and need to be replicated and extended in future research with larger
samples and perhaps with older children who do not object so much to such
physiological assessments. The correlation levels (e.g., .15 or .29) for the heart rate
variables are indicative of a small to medium effect size (Cohen, 1992). This effect
size suggests that when comparing groups of participants (i.e., high vs. moderate
fearlessness on heart rate or heart rate variability) a sample of at least 52 participants
in each category is needed to achieve significant results with a statistical power of .80.

Our category of high fearlessness was much smaller (n = 28) and this reduced the
statistical power of the study. Furthermore, the low number of complete physiological
records (n = 50) contributed even further to lowering the number of participants in
each category. Thus, it is reasonable to expect that using a larger sample would have
increased the number of significant correlations. This might be the task for future
studies. In the known longitudinal studies on behavioral inhibition to the unfamiliar,
Kagan and his colleagues (Coll, Kagan, & Reznick, 1984a) used a sample of 117
infants. Based on 305 prescreen interviews they identified 56 infants who were
classified as inhibited. The effect size ranged from r = .21* to r = .36** in measuring
baseline heart rate. Longitudinal assessment regarding samples of infants classified as
inhibited included smaller samples for example in the study of Coll and colleagues
(Coll, Kagan, & Reznick, 1984b) 43 inhibited infants participated. The study
demonstrated significant correlations of a moderate to high magnitude (r = .26 to r =
.51). In all, it seems that to examine physiological underpinnings of fearlessness a
greater sample is needed in each group (around 40-50 participants) to boost the
statistical power of such examination. See discussion of this and related issues in the
section on limitations of the study and suggestions for future research.
4.4 Fearlessness and Socio-Emotional Characteristics
Emotion Expressions Recognition
Several developmental theories have been proposed regarding how low
behavioral inhibition may place a child at risk of impairment in the ability to
recognize emotional distress cues emitted by others (Blair, 1999). For example,
children low on behavioral inhibition, namely fearlessness, may lack normal reactivity
to the cues of distress in others and (Blair, 1995). In the present study we found that
fearlessness was significantly associated with more errors in recognizing fearful facial

expressions at Time 1. These findings were replicated at Time 2 as well when having
to identify correctly fear expressions at the first guess though fearlessness was not
associated with correct identification of fear at the second guess when children could
take as much time and have as much clarity of the stimuli as needed before they
decided. These findings appear to suggest that though fearlessness is associated with
difficulty identifying expressions of fear, when presented with clear indications of
such emotion even children high in fearlessness might be as good as others in
identifying fear emotion expressions. Our findings replicate results from previous
studies with adults (Aniskiewicz, 1979; Blair, Jones, Clark, & Smith, 1997) and
young offenders (Blair, Colledge, Murray, & Mitchell, 2001). The studies with young
offenders showed that fearless temperament characterized by reduced autonomic
responses to fearful expressions, particularly in childhood, is related to impaired
cognitive ability to recognize such expressions (Aniskiewicz, 1979; Blair, 1999). It
seems that experiencing less fear on your own predisposes children as well as older
individuals to miss such cues in others, or at least to find it harder to recognize it in
others.
As expected, in the present study fearlessness was not consistently associated
with deficit in recognizing facial expressions of anger, disgust, joy, sadness, and
surprise. Still there were several significant correlations between fearlessness and
errors in recognizing anger, joy, and surprise at Time 1. Specifically, for some of the
indicators (preschool teacher, mother and laboratory observation) fearlessness was
associated with fewer errors in recognizing positive emotions such as joy or surprise.
And father's report regarding fearlessness was positively associated with errors in
recognizing anger facial expressions. These results imply that fearlessness in children
is not associated with difficulties in recognizing any kind of emotion. In fact fearless

children appear not to have difficulties recognizing joy and surprise facial
expressions, actually they appear quite adept in recognizing these emotions; however
they might have some difficulty to recognize anger facial expressions although it
should be noted that these associations were not consistent across the fearlessness
indicators.
At Time 2 there were also several significant correlations (again not consistent
across indicators of fearlessness) regarding identifications of anger and joy facial
expressions. Specifically, preschool teacher's report and laboratory observation score
regarding fearlessness were negatively correlated with recognizing anger facial
expressions at the second guess, and father's report regarding fearlessness was
negatively correlated with recognizing joy facial expressions at the first guess. The
findings regarding anger facial expressions at Time 2 present a partial replication of
the findings at Time 1. Together they might imply that fearless children may have
some difficulty in recognizing also anger facial expressions. An explanation for these
findings might relate to the underlying mechanism of the fear and exploration
systems. Difficulty in recognizing fear facial expression is attributed to the under
activation of the fear system. Angry responses by others are one category of
threatening stimuli that fearless children may tend to miss or ignore as part of the
deactivation of the fear system. Hence they show more errors in recognizing it in
others. However as these findings were not consistent across the fearlessness
indicators such interpretation calls for a further examination of the tendency of
fearless children to feel anger and their capacity to recognize anger in others.
Difficulty in recognizing fear facial expressions may be based at the neural
level, with the amygdala as the primary locus of dysfunction in individuals showing
deficit in recognizing fearful facial expressions (Blair, 2001; Patrick, 1994). On the

functional level, the amygdala is known to be involved in aversive conditioning and


potentiation of the startle reflex by visual primes (Angrilli, Mauri, Palomba, Flor,
Birhaumer, Sartori, & Di-Paola, 1996; LaBar, LeDoux, Spencer, & Phelps, 1995).
Moreover, functional imaging studies have reported amygdala responses to sad and
fearful expressions, but not to angry or disgusted facial expressions (Blair, Morris,
Frith, Perrett, & Dolan, 1999; Morris, Frith, Perrett, Rowland, Young, Calder, &
Dolan, 1996; Phillips, Young, Scott, Calder, Andrew, Giampietro, Williams,
Bullmore, Brammer, & Gray, 1998). Yet most of the studies concerning amygdala
responses to sad and fearful expressions were conducted with psychopathic
individuals and not with normal populations.
For example, psychopathic individuals show impairment in aversive
conditioning and potentiation of the startle reflex by visual primes (e.g., Lykken,
1995; Patrick, 1994).

Moreover, adults and children in middle childhood with

psychopathic tendencies have been shown to have reduced skin conductance


responses to sad and fearful expressions, but not to angry expressions (Aniskiewicz,
1979; Blair, 1999), and young adolescence with psychopathic tendencies have been
found to show selective recognition difficulties for sad and fearful expressions, but
not for happy, surprised, disgusted or angry expressions (e.g., Blair, Colledge,
Murray, & Mitchell, 2001). The present study included a normal and non-clinical
sample and observed children who were not clinically categorized and also were very
young at the time of the assessment (3-5 years old). Yet the results regarding deficit in
recognizing fearful facial expressions were significant and consistent at Time 1 and at
Time 2. It seems that even in non clinical sample, fearlessness is associated with
having significant difficulty to recognize fear expressions and that this difficulty is not
necessarily bound with other variables such as difficult family background or abusive

experiences which is more typical in clinical samples. Moreover, these findings


underscore that this difficulty appears even at a very young age and strengthen the
need to examine this difficulty not only in middle childhood and early adolescence
but also in earlier stages of life. Further future studies should examine the amygdala
in normal samples to expand our understanding of neurological functions among
fearless young children without clinical diagnoses.
Blair (1995) connected such difficulty in recognizing fear in others to the risk
of developing high levels of aggressiveness. On the cognitive level, the suggestion is
that moral socialization occurs through the pairing of the sadness/fear of others with
representations of the acts that caused the distress cues, i.e., moral transgressions
(Blair, 1995). In conditioning terms, the sadness and fear of others act as
unconditioned stimuli for both aversive conditioning (resulting in the individual
disliking actions that hurt others) and instrumental learning (resulting in the individual
avoiding actions that harm others). In light of the possibility that fearlessness might be
associated with developing such antisocial tendencies, longitudinal studies are needed
to examine the developmental sequel of fearlessness that is identified in the preschool
period.
Interestingly unlike in studies with older samples where difficulty in
recognizing fear was associated with difficulty in recognizing sadness (e.g., Blair et
al, 2001) in the present study fearlessness was not positively correlated with difficulty
to recognize sad facial expressions. This might be related to the distinction between
fear and sad facial expression. In the emotional development literature (Lewis, 2008;
Malatesta, & Haviland, 1982) fear expression is described as having a strong survival
function and its expression signals the organism about the existence of potential
dangerous stimuli; this in turn enables the organism to prepare to withdraw or attack.

Therefore fear expressions must be noticeable and clear from early on. However, sad
expressions might be more subtle and can range from inner contemplations to more
explicit and noticeable behaviors. Specifically, sadness elicits caregiving behavior
from an older individual (usually a caregiver) and this strengthens the bond between
the infant and the caregiver. Comparing these two emotions, fear expressions call for
an immediate response from the caregiver whereas sad expressions can be more latent
and need less urgent response. It might be that fearful expressions are therefore more
aversive and clear than sad expressions and consequently are more easily detected at
an early age compared to sadness. Research with older children might be able to
expose the expected associations between fearlessness and errors in recognition of
sadness in others too. Examination of cognitive processes in social contexts (for
example, decoding various social situations including ambiguous conditions and
ambiguous emotional manifestation) may be illuminating in understanding the
fearlessness and how it affects decoding of situations involving various emotions.
Empathy and Prosocial Behavior
Empathy has been described as the motivating drive behind prosocial behavior
in humans and other animals (De Waal, 2008). Empathy involves cognitive and
affective understanding of the distress of others that is marked by a negative and
aversive experience. This process may lead the individual to behavioral efforts to
alleviate the distress of the other. Similarly, prosocial behaviors that reflect the
individual's intention to promote the welfare of others can be seen as a potential
outcome of empathy. Support for this suggestion has been demonstrated in several
studies of children (Eisenberg & Fabes, 1998).These studies have shown positive
relationships between empathy toward a person in distress and prosocial behavior
toward that person (e.g., Eisenberg & Fabes, 1998; Young et al., 1999; Zahn-Waxler

et al., 1992) and relationships between childrens overall tendency for empathy and
their prosocial behavior (e.g., Barnett & Thompson, 1985; Roberts & Strayer, 1996).
It has been found that children as young as age 3 can perform perspective-taking tasks
needed for empathy, use language and interpersonal skills that enable them to
approach others in distress, inquire about the feelings of others, and provide comfort
(Hoffman, 2000; Underwood & Moore, 1982; Zahn-Waxler et al., 1992). Therefore,
we expected that even at a young age there will be individual differences in empathy
and prosocial behaviors as elicited by laboratory stimuli and a projective instrument.
We assumed that fearlessness would be associated with a lower degree of empathy
and prosocial behavior. Research has demonstrated that children characterized by low
autonomic arousal supposedly indicative of behavioral fearlessness are more likely to
exhibit a lower degree of empathy and prosocial behavior toward others (Gratten,
Bloomer, Archambault & Eslinger, 1994; Young, Fox & Zahn-Waxler, 1999; ZahnWaxler, Cole, Welsh, & Fox, 1995). Thus, we expected that fearlessness would be
associated with lower levels of empathy and lower levels of prosocial behavior.
As expected, in the present study fearlessness was consistently associated
negatively with empathy at Time 1 and at Time 2. Furthermore fearlessness was also
associated negatively with prosocial behavior at Time 1 though not with all indicators
of prosocial behavior. Still for all the correlation coefficients (those significant and
those that were insignificant) the direction of effect was negative as expected (higher
fearlessness associated with lower prosocial behavior). Together, our findings showed
that fearlessness was associated as expected with lower empathy and lower prosocial
behavior as assessed by questionnaires, observations and a projective measure. These
findings are important since they provide support to the suggestion that lower levels
of empathy and prosocial behavior reflect part of the socio-emotional characteristics

of fearlessness. The general consistency of this effect across different kinds of


contexts such preschool, home and laboratory and the fact that it is evinced by
assessments using different methods strengthen this claim.
In the assessment of prosocial behavior not all expected associations were
significant. One explanation for this inconsistency in the findings may relate to the
behavioral manifestations of pro-social behavior. Prosocial behavior relates to acts
that demonstrate a sense of empathy, caring, and ethics, including sharing,
cooperating, helping others, generosity, supporting others with warmth and affection,
nurturing and guiding, and even the altruistic act of risking one's life to warn or aid
another (Berk, 2000). Studies had revealed age-related increases in the production of
human prosocial acts that parallel increases in moral reasoning, the ability to see the
perspective of others, and experiencing and showing emotional concern (Berk, 2000;
Eisenberg, & Fabes, 1998). According to this claim, it is reasonable to assume that
prosocial behavior of children in this young age of 3-4 years of age are less clear and
discriminated from other behaviors in social context than in older children. Moreover,
because of the variety of ways by which prosocial tendencies might be exhibited, it
may not be fully and similarly exhibited in all the contexts, especially at this young
age.

Interestingly the most consistent profile of results was obtained with the

preschool teacher's report on pro-social behavior. This might be related to the wider
range of interpersonal situations that the preschool environment affords where there is
range of interactions with same age children as well as with adults. In contrast the
home environment where parents are the observers of prosocial behaviors and in
particular the laboratory observation might be more restricted in the affordances for
prosocial actions.

Another explanation for the inconsistency in the findings may relate to the
possibility of genetic bias of the parents as reporters. The less consistent profile of
results with parents' reports compared to the profile of results with the preschool
teacher and the laboratory observation may result from potential biases of parents to
fearless children. Since fearlessness is expected to reflect a temperamental tendency
that is considered to have genetic origins, it might be that parents of fearless children
tend themselves to be characterized by similar genetic predisposition and as a result
they themselves are less empathic and less prosocial and hence find it more difficult
than others (i.e., preschool teachers, observers) to identify such behaviors in their
child.
Our findings regarding how fearlessness is related to empathy and prosocial
behavior are consistent with previous studies regarding the relations between
uninhibited temperament and conscience development. Although these studies
assessed inhibition and not fearlessness, though not equivalent temperament
categories of low behavioral inhibition are related to fearlessness; hence research on
uninhibited temperament can inform us also about fearlessness. Behavioral inhibition
was indeed found to be related to conscience development (Kagan & Snidman, 1991).
Specifically, children who were characterized by behaviorally uninhibited
temperament (presumable reflecting the high approach- fearless side) may be at risk
to exhibiting lower degree of empathic concern towards others (Kochanska, 1993;
Blair, 1999).

This temperamental tendency (i.e., uninhibited temperament) was

expected to present a difficult challenge to processes of internalizations which involve


learning social rules and norms since the child may be relatively insensitive to
prohibitions and sanctions of socialization agents such as family members or teachers
(for reviews, see Kochanska, 1993; Kochanska, Forman, & Coy, 1999; Kochanska &

Thompson, 1997). This raises questions about what types of parental practice are
useful in helping uninhibited (fearless) children develop conscience and moral
behavior. One answer to this question might be based on Kochanskas work on the
development of conscience (Kochanska, 1993, 1997). Kochanska calls attention to
fearfulness as an important temperamental factor determining a childs ability to be
socialized, and highlights

the importance of parental practices such as warmth,

positive relationships and strong limit-setting which are needed to activate the
internalization of rules and social norms in children low in fearfulness. Another
answer might be related to Blairs (1999) model of the development of morality. Blair
argues that fearfulness is an index of the developmental integrity of the amygdala and
that empathy induction (Hoffman, 1987), rather than frightening children, is the most
effective form of parenting strategy. Along the same lines, Frick (Frick, & Marsee,
2006; Frick, & White, 2008) suggested that parents should enhance mainly positive
rewards as a tool for achieving acceptance of social norms and expected behaviors,
since uninhibited (fearless) children are motivated more by reward responses than by
distress and guilt inducing tactics.
In conclusion, the current results suggest that fearlessness is associated with
reduced empathy and prosocial behavior. These findings imply that socialization
efforts with fearless children should consider unique strategies to enhance empathy
feelings and prosocial behavior, to be described later in the section on applied
implications.
Aggressiveness and Antisocial Behavior
Several studies have examined the relations between temperament and
aggression, suggesting that temperament may significantly predict different kinds of
severe aggression in young children (Shaw, Winslow, Owens, Vondra, Cohn, & Bell,

1998). All these forms can be manifested in different types of aggression, such as
bullying, reactive aggression, and proactive aggression. Specifically, bullying reflects
the use of repetitive force on vulnerable victims. Proactive aggression is unprovoked
behavior motivated by the desire to achieve a specific external reinforcement, whereas
reactive aggression is largely retaliatory, in response to real or perceived provocations
or threats (Dodge & Pettit, 2003; Little, Jones, Henrich, & Hawley, 2003; Poulin &
Boivin, 2000).
The literature describes different characteristics and antecedents of aggressive
behavior. Reactive aggression is associated with high rates of peer rejection (Poulin &
Boivin, 2000; Waschbusch, Willoughby, & Pelham, 1998), high rates of angry
reactivity, and low tolerance of frustration (Hubbard et al., 2002; Little et al., 2003;
Shields & Cicchetti, 1998; Vitaro et al., 2002). This type of aggression is more likely
to occur in families practicing harsh and abusive parenting, and having poor
emotional regulating strategies (Dodge, Bates et al., 1990; Strassberg et al., 1994).
In contrast, proactive aggression is less associated with rejection by peers
(Poulin & Boivin, 2000; Schwartz et al., 1998) and is often associated with reduced
levels of emotional reactivity to provocations (Hubbard et al., 2002; Pitts, 1997).
Further, this group of children tends to show deficits in conscience development and
specific traits (callous unemotional traits, e.g., lack of empathy, lack of guilt, shallow
emotions) considered important in the development of severe aggressive and
antisocial behavior (Frick, Cornell, Barry et al., 2003). Further, the behavioral
problems of children at middle childhood with callous-unemotional (CU) features
have been less strongly related to dysfunctional parenting practices (Oxford, Cavell,
& Hughes, 2003; Wootton, Frick, Shelton, & Silverthorn, 1997). Callous and
unemotional behavior has been linked to a number of important correlates at young

adolescence (see Frick & Ellis, 1999; Frick & Marsee, 2006; Frick & Morris, 2004 for
reviews), such as low levels of fearful inhibitions (Frick et al., 1999; Frick et al.,
2003) and decreased sensitivity to punishment cues, especially when a rewardoriented response set is primed (Barry et al., 2000; Fisher & Blair, 1998). As
suggested in the literature, children who show antisocial behavior from early
childhood are at greater risk for showing severe antisocial behavior in adulthood, a
pattern known as life-course persistent antisocial behavior (Moffitt, 2003). Such
individuals can be ten times more costly to society than the average citizen (Scott,
Knapp, Henderson, & Maughan, 2001).
Indeed, individuals with antisocial tendency who demonstrate the affective
core of callous-unemotional traits start offending at a young age and continue
throughout life with acts that are often predatory in nature (Hart & Hare, 1997). Thus,
callous-unemotional traits may be one such risk factor that makes children vulnerable
for lifelong and persistent antisocial behavior of a particularly serious nature (Frick &
Hare, 2001; Frick, 1998).
As expected, in the present study fearlessness was consistently and clearly
associated with aggressiveness and also with severe antisocial tendencies. These
findings were remarkably consistent across different reporters (parents, preschool
teacher) and in different contexts (e.g. home and preschool). It appears that even at
this young age different reporters in different contexts identified fearlessness as
associated not only with general aggressiveness but also with severe antisocial
tendencies that include callous unemotional traits reflecting great risk for showing
severe antisocial behavior in adulthood.
Our results accord with findings of previous studies with older children (Shaw,
Gilliom, Ingoldsby, & Nagin, 2003) suggesting that fearless temperament might be a

risk factor for the development of aggression and antisocial tendency in young
children. Yet the current study does not address the stability of aggression and
antisocial tendency. It does, however, suggest that fearlessness may be important in
explaining aggressive and antisocial behavior even in very young children, and
therefore should be considered in interventions with aggressive preschool children
(Frick, 2001b).
In all, the current results suggest that fearlessness is associated with aggressive
behavior in preschool children. Yet these results cannot solely be explained by the
single risk factor of temperamental fearlessness. The development of aggression is
best understood by considering multiple causal processes that include both individual
predispositions and contextual factors (Dodge & Pettit, 2003). Future studies should
consider temperament, parental practices and social context at young ages and assess
stability throughout life.
Sociability
Our results demonstrated that fearlessness is associated with higher sociability
as reported by both parents and preschool teachers. However, the analyses comparing
children high, moderate and low in fearlessness demonstrated that this effect is mostly
due to the difference between children low in fearlessness who might be similar to
inhibited children and all the others (children who are moderate and high on
fearlessness). These results accord with previous studies. For example, previous
research with young adolescents found that uninhibited behavior is associated with
positive affect (Frick & Ellis, 1999; Loney, Bulter, & Lima, 2006). Similarly, low
behavioral inhibition in children was associated with sociability (Stifner, Fox, &
Porges, 1989). Children low in inhibition seems more eager to explore in a way that
demonstrates inquisitiveness, outgoing behavior and friendliness toward others

(Mullen, Snidman & Kagan, 1993). The unexpected finding with regard recognition
of joy might be related to this aspect too. Children high and moderate in fearlessness
had lower levels of errors in recognizing joy compared to those who were low in
fearlessness. This better recognition of joy may be related to their outgoing nature and
general positive affect compared to children low on fearlessness.
Fearless children may have several social skills which culminate in high levels
of sociability that might prompt their popularity in social relationships. Yet at the
same time they may have other deficits in their social skills including difficulty
recognizing the distress cues of others, lower empathy and lower prosocial tendencies.
In fact, the ability to be friendly is not necessarily related to empathy towards others.
A fearless child might be a positive and enjoyable playmate for exploration and
sensation seeking activities that can be attractive to other peers. However, when a
distressing social situation occurs a fearless child might ignore and avoid the
distressing signals, and might also act without regard to the other person's feelings
and even in an aggressive manner. Thus, we need to discriminate between prosocial
behavior and sociability among children high in fearlessness. These two
characteristics might play out differently in different relational contexts and in
different developmental stages. For example, whereas recognition of distress cues,
empathy, and prosocial tendencies might be especially important in intimate
encounters, sociability might be more central in group contexts. This might also be
related to different developmental periods. It might be that as children develop more
complex and sophisticated understanding of social relationships (e.g. understanding
the others own perspective) and have more abilities to express their inner thoughts
and feelings that enable them to be in more intimate relationships, fearlessness would
become more associated with peer rejection or with less intimate relationships. Future

studies should address this domain to enhance our understanding about this construct
and the long-term outcomes of the social relationships of fearless children as well as
to sharpen the distinctions and highlight the similarities between sociability and
empathetic and prosocial responses among children high in fearlessness. In this realm
future studies should consider peers' report as well.
Conclusions and implications
In conclusion, the current results suggest that the construct of fearlessness is
associated with numerous socio-emotional outcomes. Our findings help unravel the
complexity of fearlessness and shed some light on possible developmental processes
early in life. Specifically, our findings demonstrated that fearlessness is associated
with higher sociability but also with lower empathy and prosocial behavior. These
findings suggest that these variables represent different constructs although they relate
to similar behavioral manifestations reflecting interpersonal closeness.
Further, and consistent with other studies, our results suggest that fearlessness
may be a risk factor for developing aggressiveness and antisocial tendencies even at a
very young age (Frick et al., 2000). Together, our findings suggest that fearlessness in
preschool children is associated with lower ability to recognize fear facial
expressions, lower empathic orientation, lower tendencies for prosocial behavior
towards the others and higher levels of aggressive behavior in general as well as
higher tendency to exhibit callous unemotional traits. These findings suggest that
fearlessness in preschool constitute a clear risk factor for developmental pathways
that lead to problems in morality, conscience development and severe antisocial
behaviors. With preliminary findings pointing in the direction of underlying
physiological mechanisms and possibly genetic factors these findings are even more
alarming since they might imply that fearlessness is related to neurological and

genetic predisposition and therefore might be more resistant to educational processes


and clinical interventions. Future research using larger samples and longitudinal
research designs is needed to examine if the direction of our findings is corroborated.
If they are we may be better equipped to suggest interventions for coping with
different patterns of emotional arousal related to long term violence and antisocial
acts. Clearly, clinical and educational applications of the construct of fearlessness
require much more research to fully evaluate their potential clinical utility among
young children. Nevertheless, the current study provides a preliminary step in this
direction. Interestingly our study did not show any association between gender and
fearlessness. Further, gender did not moderate any of the effects reported in the
present study. These findings is similar to the one reported by kagan and his
colleagues (Garcia Coill, Kagan, & Reznick, 1984; Kagan, Reznick, Clarke, Snidman
& Garcia-Coll, 1984) regarding the inhibited end of the approach and withdrawal
temperament dimension. Still, gender may affect the way fearlessness and its
vicissitudes will developed later in life. Future research may need to address this
possibility.
4.5 Strengths and Limitations
Fearlessness Assessment and Construct Validation
The present study is the first study to assessed fearlessness by multiple
sources, in different contexts and across time. Fearlessness was assessed using both
parents and teacher reports to avoid relying on any single informant. In addition, we
used observational measures to overcome possible biases related to reports by parents.
Another methodological strength of this study lies in assessing the same children at
two different ages (3-4 years old; 4-5 years old) in early childhood using different

methods (questionnaires, observation). This allowed us to examine the stability of


fearlessness and to validate the measures using a larger age span.
The present study can be seen as the first stage in the identification of
fearlessness as a unique temperamental tendency that is discriminated from other
temperamental dimensions yet is related to them. Besides the use of various sources
and contexts to assess fearlessness this identification was validated by several other
ways. First, in the present study we specifically focused on fearlessness and
distinguished between fearlessness and inhibition. We achieve this by comparing high
fearlessness to mid levels of fearlessness rather than to low levels of fearlessness
which might be otherwise described as reflecting inhibition. This procedure contrasts
with previous studies that examined inhibition and compared high inhibition to low
inhibition Our comparison between moderate to high fearlessness enabled us to
control the bias that could occur from the low fearlessness group. Consequently we
could identify distinct qualities that characterize high fearlessness and distinguish it
from both moderate and low fearlessness.
Second, we provided support to the notion that fearlessness is similar yet
distinct from other temperament tendencies. In the present study fearlessness was
correlated positively with temperamental dimensions such as surgency

negative

affectivity and effortful control. However, our results also showed that fearlessness
can also be spatially discriminated from these three major temperamental dimensions
(Rothbart et al., 1994) and is not identical with either of them. In the same line the
present study strengthened the notion the fearlessness is an distinctive temperamental
tendency by showing moderate association between fearlessness and hyperactivity
and impulsivity and by demonstrating that fearlessness predicted various socioemotional outcomes over and above what was predicted by hyperactivity and

impulsivity. Furthermore, the lack of significant findings regarding fearlessness and


parenting variables may serve as another indication that fearlessness is a
temperamental predisposition that in this early stage of life is not dependent on
parental practice. In this context the physiological findings, though very preliminary
provide additional support to this claim because they demonstrate that fearlessnesses
associated with specific profile of heart rate activation.
Socio-Emotional Characteristics
The present study was one of the first studies to consider how fearlessness as a
temperamental dimension is associated with multiple positive and negative socioemotional characteristics at a very young age. In fact previous studies examined
similar constructs and their association with fearlessness only in late middle
childhood. Our study not only provided evidence for the association between
fearlessness and the various socio-emotional characteristics in such an early age but
also examined each of the socio-emotional characteristics using diverse methods and
several sources. Our study used different kinds of methods and sources to enhance the
validity of the assessments when studying emotion expression recognition, empathy
and prosocial behavior, aggressiveness, antisocial tendency, and sociability. The
space of nearly one year between the first and second measurement allowed us to
expand and strengthen the examination of some of the socio-emotional characteristics
that were assessed in the present study such as emotion recognition and empathy in an
important developmental period accompanied by various social and cognitive
changes.
Moreover, this is one of the first studies to examine callous unemotional traits
at a very young age. Despite the caution needed in interpreting the findings regarding
the positive associations between fearlessness and severe antisocial tendency at such a

young age, our findings can cautiously suggest that fearlessness may serve as a risk
factor for a severe form of aggression characterized by unique affective impairment in
which socialization and conscience development are considered difficult. Together
with additional research, these findings may provide conceptual and empirical basis
for the development of future clinical and educational interventions.
Limitations
The findings of the current study need to be interpreted in the context of
several limitations. First, the sample size was relatively small, which may have
reduced the strength in finding significant associations. In particular the study relied
on a moderately modest sample of children showing high level of fearlessness.
Although fearlessness seems to be a distinct tendency with specific features it is not a
common phenomenon. To locate around 30 high fearless children we referred to
nearly 400 families. This overall distribution implies that the probable frequency of
fearlessness is ranging from 5%-7% in normal populations. In the present study we
sampled normal children and functioning families. It might be that in clinical samples
the percentage of fearless children will be higher. A larger sample and different
sampling methods may be needed, particularly since high levels of fearlessness are
not highly prevalent in normal samples. Generalizations must therefore be treated
with some degree of caution. Sample size may have been especially important in
explaining the difficulty in finding consistent significant correlations between
fearlessness and physiological variables. Therefore future studies should consider
larger number of children in each group and in particular in the high fearlessness
group. Further, regarding the generalization, the sample was recruited from
public/municipal kindergardens in the city of Haifa. The sample did not include
special needs kindergardens nor clinical populations and other related populations and

relied on a moderately homogenous sample in terms of SES. Studies of preschool


samples from other groups and communities are needed to assess the general nature of
the current findings beyond this group of children from secular families with
moderate to high SES. Furthermore, prospective longitudinal studies are critical to
evaluate whether this temperamental tendency can be generalized to actual clinical
risk assessment contexts. In our sample we had somewhat more than 50% boys in the
sample. It is not clear why we had more boys than girls in the general sample. This
may have to do with optional bias of the preschool teacher and/or the mothers. Still,
The distribution of gender was not different in the various groups of fearlessness.
Second, limitations regarding the measures examined in the current study also
deserve comment. We used the Behavioral Inhibition Scale (BIS) as a screening tool
(Frick, 2001a) for identifying fearless children. Although the BIS enabled us to
identify the fearless group, we did not have data regarding norms and standardized
cut-off points reflecting common agreement about fearless behavior. The lack of
standardized cut-off points requires future investigations using the BIS to clarify the
desirable cut-off point for individual differences in fearless types of behavior.
Furthermore, the literature mentions two systems (BIS and BAS) that organize
behavior of approach or withdrawal. These systems have different mechanism but
they are expected to work in concert (Fowles, 1980; Gray, 1982). Our study focused
mainly on the BIS (inhibition of the appetitive approach to stimuli signaling
punishment or non-reward) in order to illuminate the behavioral manifestation of
fearlessness that could be recognized in early age of life. We assume that
discrimination between these two systems and assessment of their relations and
different contribution to fearlessness requires larger assessment and more
sophisticated measurements. For example, it might be that strong activation of the

exploration system at the expense of the fear system, which is manifested reactively
by fearlessness in the face of new and intense stimuli, is also manifested by proactive
search for new and exciting stimuli and experiences, namely by stimulation or
sensation seeking (Zuckerman, 1990). Exploration of whether these two behavioral
manifestations are associated could sharpen our understanding regarding various
types of fearless behavior.
With respect to the physiological assessment, we were only able to record 50
complete heart rate responses. It seems that conducting physiological assessments
such as heart rate measurement with young children is a very complicated task.
Parental approval is needed and friendly equipment as well. The most common
problem is that the children and their parents are prone to view the electrodes wearing
as an intrusive act. In the present study some of the children resisted actively wearing
the electrodes on their chest. Another problem relates to the young children difficulty
to remain seated calmly at the baseline episode. Some of the children were unable to
concentrate sufficiently during the procedure and as a result we could not analyze
their records. Consequently, we had problems analyzing some of the records due to
missing or noisy data. We realized that other tools (EEMG, MRI) might be more
useful with young children than electrodes that can be removed.
Alternative measures of antisocial tendency should be tested to evaluate the
validity of the self-report measure used in the current study (Antisocial Process
Screening Device: APSD, Frick, & Hare, 2001). A comparison to other instruments
for assessing antisocial tendency is particularly important in determining the most
useful format for assessing antisocial tendency and callous unemotional traits at such
early ages due to the sensitivity involved in "labeling" young children as antisocial. In
addition, another further limitation of the study is the uncertainty as to whether low

scores on the measure of moral dilemma stories and prosocial behavior indicate a
stable trait or a developmentally transient state. Specifically, the rationale for studying
early correlates of moral development was based on research indicating that a group
of children with low behavioral inhibition (i.e., fearlessness) showed evidence of
deficits in conscience development (Frick et al., 2000; Frick & Morris, 2004). Further
research is needed to assess how many of these preschool children with low scores on
the moral dilemma stories measure are likely to develop conduct problems later in
childhood and adolescence (Frick, Kimonis, Dandreaux, & Farrell, 2003).
Longitudinal studies starting at an earlier age are clearly needed to determine when
these traits become stable during early childhood. Future research should also
consider cultural differences that might influence behavioral manifestation of
fearlessness. For example, fearless behavior may be activated and presented
differently in non-Western societies, necessitating special norms for assessing this
temperamental tendency in different societies.
4.6 Clinical Implications
Given these limitations, our results require replication before definite
statements about clinical implications can be made. Nevertheless, our results are
compatible with a model suggesting that temperament style, such as low inhibition
and the tendency to fearlessness, may be a risk factor for development of
aggressiveness and severe antisocial behavior even at an early stage of life. It is
important to note that focusing on any single risk factor in interventions among
aggressive children is likely to have limited effectiveness, and comprehensive
approaches to treatment targeting multiple risk factors are needed (Frick, 1998;
2001b).

By far the most common intervention for reducing aggression in young


children, and the one which has the most empirical support, is to enhance parenting
practices and skills in families of aggressive or at-risk preschoolers (Jamila, WebsterStratton, & Baydar, 2004). Nonetheless, though positive parenting is associated with
lower levels of antisocial behavior in healthy children, this type of parenting behavior
has no predictive power for the level of antisocial behavior shown by children with
the affective impairment associated with low empathy (Wootton et al., 1997). Further,
the current findings suggest that these interventions could also be enhanced by
considering parenting strategies that may be optimal for children with fearless
temperaments (Kochanska, 1993) and by including interventions that foster the
development of empathetic feelings towards others. In addition, socialization methods
for raising arousal levels to an optimal range for the child to internalize the message
(Chi-Ming, Greenberg, & Walls 2003; Kochanska et al., 1994) are thought to be
useful as well. It is assumed that fearless children do not experience an optimal level
of arousal in situations involving potential punishment and thus experience difficulties
in internalizing parental norms and social rules. Therefore, a strong set of rules and
stable parenting practices would potentially lead to more arousal (Bates, &
McFadyen-Ketchum, 2000). Support for this claim has been found in studies
demonstrating that children temperamentally resistant to control are more likely to
develop externalizing behavior problems when their mothers control of the child is
low rather than high (Bates Pettit, Dodge, & Ridge, 1998). As a result, compared to
other children, behaviorally fearless children may need their parents to use a stricter
set of rules. In general, parenting style appears to have an effect on children with a
fearless or behaviorally uninhibited temperament.

In particular, behaviorally

uninhibited children who were disciplined more consistently and those raised with a

more authoritarian style of parenting were rated by their parents as possessing higher
levels of conscience development (Cornell, & Frick, 2007). This finding suggests that
parental use of consistent discipline is crucial for fearless children and supports the
claim that such children may also benefit from a parenting style that emphasizes a
rule-oriented approach and a demand for obedience. This parenting style has largely
been viewed as important to child development (see Baumrind, 1971; Hoffman, 1970,
1982; Eisenberg, 1988). In support of these findings, previous research has suggested
that children with difficult temperaments are more likely to develop externalizing
behavior problems when their mothers are low rather than high in authoritarian
control (Bates et al., 1998; Bates & McFadyen-Ketchum, 2000).
On the other hand, some parenting practices can lead to too much arousal even
among fearless children and thus negatively affect internalization (Kochanska, 1993).
Therefore, a mutually responsive parent-child orientation that encompasses shared
dyadic positive affect as well as mutual cooperation and responsiveness of parent and
child may be the critical socialization component for fearless children (Kochanska,
1997; Kochanska & Murray, 2000). This aspect of parenting does not rely on
punishment-related arousal for internalization, focusing instead on the positive
qualities of the parent-child relationship (Kochanska & Murray, 2000). In support of
this proposal, attachment security has been predictive of conscience development in
uninhibited children who were classified as uninhibited based on their score which
was above the median in that sample (Kochanska, 1995; 1997). Furthermore, Frick
and McMahon (2008) suggested the use of parenting practice that includes positive
reward techniques according to a set of behavioral goals. This structured system of
positive reward might serve as a bypass component for under-arousal when it comes
to the distress of others, instead enhancing the childs motivation to cooperate. In line

with these suggestions, it is possible that children temperamentally at risk for


problems in conscience development due to fearless temperament can have this risk
moderated by certain parenting practices and attachment-secure relationships. Further
studies assessing the relationship between fearlessness and attachment security in
early and middle childhood are needed.
In conclusion, given the stability of aggression from pre-school to later
childhood, enhancing intervention programs to more effectively reduce aggressive
behavior early in development is critical. Further, since the effectiveness of treatments
for aggressiveness and behavioral problems such as conduct disorder appear to
decrease with age (Frick, 1998; 2001b), interventions focusing on early
developmental processes prior to the appearance of strong conduct problems are
critical to prevent the later emergence of serious antisocial and aggressive behaviors.
4.7 Future Research
Additional studies can broaden our knowledge and understanding of the
behavioral manifestations and underlying mechanisms of fearlessness. Future studies
should examine hyper-activation of the approach system (BAS) versus underactivation of the fear system (BIS) in different cultures (Western and non-Western
societies) and contexts (school, peers, relationship with siblings, home observation) as
well as in normal samples. Further, the mechanisms underlying BIS and BAS
functioning should be assessed using different kinds of measures, such as heart rate,
amygdale functioning, EEMG, and MRI. Further investigation should relate to genetic
and environmental contributions to the developmental pathways of socio-emotional
characteristics with respect to fearless temperament. We suggest that genetic
information may provide greater understanding of the differentiation between genetic
and environmental influences with respect to fearlessness, particularly the heritability

of fearlessness. To test the developmental pathways of fearlessness, it is critical to use


longitudinal research designs to enhance our understanding of the stability of this
temperamental trait, along with more extensive and long-term assessment of different
socio-emotional characteristics related to fearlessness.
This research sought to identify young children characterized by a unique
temperamental tendency reflected in fearless behavior. We also explored the
possibility that this temperamental tendency is an early risk factor for the
development of several problematic socio-emotional characteristics. The results of
this investigation provide preliminary evidence that this is indeed the case.
Fearlessness which could be reliably identified as early as three years of age was
clearly associated with problematic socio-emotional markers such as low empathy,
low prosocial behavior, aggressiveness and even severe forms of antisocial
tendencies. The fact that fearlessness was significantly identified by different sources
across different contexts and was stable across a one year period may indicate the
robust nature of this temperamental predisposition and provides support to the view
that fearlessness might be a temperamental risk factor for a developmental trajectory
leading to psychopathy tendency. Because this study is the first to examine
fearlessness in such a young age such an alarming possibility calls for subsequent
research with larger samples and the exploration of the moderating effects of clinical
and educational interventions. Hopefully the community of developmental researchers
will raise to this challenge.

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) ,(

: - .
)Behavioral Inhibition Scale (BIS, Frick, 2001a
: 20.
4 ).(1-4
.1,3,5,8,11,12,13,15,18,19 :
: - .
)Behavioral Inhibition Scale (BIS, Frick, 2001a
: 15.
4 ).(1-4
.1,3,6,8,9,10,11,13,14 :
: .
)The Child Behavior Scale (CBS; Ladd & Profilet, 1996
: 28 :
7 ,
7 ,.
6 ,.
, 4 ,.
4 ,.
3 ).(1-3
:.
: .
)The Child Behavior Checklist - Parent Version (CBCL; Achenbach, 1991,1992
: 67 :
9 ,.
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/ 8 ,.
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3 ).(0-2
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The Child Behavior Checklist - Preschool Teacher Version (CBCL; Achenbach,
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: 64 :
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11 ,.
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19 ,.
3 ).(0-2
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: 20 :
7 ,.
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, 7 ,.
3 ).(0-2
.3,7,12,18,20 :
: .
Childrens Behavior Questionnaire (CBQ: 3-7 years short form, Rothbart, Ahadi,
.(Hershe, & Fisher, 2001
: 94 :
8 , . .18,50,93 :
/ 6 , . .61 :
/ 6 , . .89,92 :
6 , . .16,21,84 :
6 , . .3,49,91 :
6 , . .25,34,75 :
6 , . .35,68 :
7 , . .24,78 :
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8 , . :.
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7 , . .54,56,74 :
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Conners, Sitarenios, Parker, & Epstein, 1998
: 27 :
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)The Mental Health Inventory (MHI: Veit & Ware, 1983
: 10.
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: 21.
4 ).(0-3
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& The Beck Anxiety Inventory (BAI; Beck, Epstein, Brown, & Steer, 1988; Beck
.(Steer, 1993
: 21.
4 ).(0-3
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Parenting Styles & Dimensions Questionnaire (PSDQ; Robinson, Mandleco, Olsen,
.(& Hart, 2001
: 32 :
15 , , :
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& Parental Willingness to Serve as a Secure Base (Kerns, Tomich, Aspelmeier,
.(Contreras, 2000
: 10.
7 ).(1-7
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Appendix A


)Behavioral Inhibition Scale; BIS (Frick, 2001
.
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Appendix B

-
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:
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10

11

12

13

14


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.


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15

16

17

18

19

20

Appendix C
Pilot Study
To examine the assessment of fearlessness and to check the laboratory
procedure that we planed to administer we conducted a pilot study that included
several different laboratory episodes that were designed to examine fearlessness,
empathy and prosocial behavior as well as how fearlessness in the laboratory relates
to fearlessness as reported by questionnaires. We invited 20 mothers and their 3years-old child to a 2-hour laboratory procedure. We specifically tried to select
children that we expected to be high on fearlessness as well as those expected to show
moderate fearlessness. We examined which of the episodes are suitable to the study
purposes and whether the fear evoking tasks were not too aversive for children in
Time 1 and in Time 2 as well. Besides our own observation we also asked for a
feedback from the mothers when the procedure ended.
Time 1- Resulting from the mothers' feedback and observations of the
videotapes we shortened the Time 1 procedure to one hour and a half because at the
third end of the procedure some of the children were tired and had difficulties to
concentrate. According to the mothers' request we enabled the child and mother to
have a break out of the observation room after 45 minutes in order to have some free
time. After observing the tapes we noticed that the children were disturbed by the fact
that their mothers were occupied with filling out the questionnaires. We decided to
administer the questionnaires to the parents at home.
Time 2- We omitted an episode which was supposed to examine fearlessness
in response to loud auditory stimuli. We found that the sounds were highly aversive to
the children in a way that did not reveal any differences in the children responses.

Appendix D

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: .
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21

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24

25

26

27


29

30

31

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32

33

34

35

Internal Consistency of the Child Behavior Scale


(CBS; Ladd & Profilet, 1996)

Internal Consistency of the preschool teachers, mothers, and fathers regarding their
report on the Child Behavior Scale (CBS; Ladd & Profilet, 1996)_________________
Preschool

Mothers

Fathers

.86

.81

.68

Prosocial with peers

.82

.70

.70

Excluded by peers

.88

.68

.74

Sociability

.81

.86

.86

Hyperactive-

.92

.87

.81

.80

.75

.77

CBS Scales

Teac
hers

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peers

distractible
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The Child Behavior Checklist- Preschool Teacher Version

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Parental Willingness to Serve as a Secure Base

)(Kerns, Tomich, Aspelmeier, & Contreras, 2000


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