Written by Cory Chandler

Date: August 10, 2005
CONTACT: Cory Chandler,

LUBBOCK – Newsweek Magazine’s article “Reading Your Baby’s Mind” has brought attention to the dramatic research that is being done on the brain activity of infants and toddlers. Texas Tech University associate professor Dr. Sybil Hart, author of the book “Preventing Sibling Rivalry,” was featured in that story.

Hart’s research establishes that children are capable of experiencing this complex emotion as young as six months of age and that it is particularly well-developed in infants of highly-involved and caring mothers. This goes against conventional views of jealousy as a character flaw that emerges only later in development as the brain establishes more sophisticated cognitive functions and mother-child relationships are disrupted. Her findings also point to the controversial position that jealousy has an inborn biologically-based foundation.

Hart studies the importance of exclusivity in relationships by observing interactions in which a child is ignored in favor of another baby. During testing, she instructs the mothers to disregard their own child while cooing over a realistic baby doll. The children, ranging from six-months to one-and-a-half years old, typically display signs of discomfort that include staring, thrashing, flushing and coughing. Children typically become angry or sad. These behaviors and emotions indicate that children are capable of experiencing and communicating feelings of jealousy. Often, however, these emotions are either missed or misunderstood by parents.

“There isn’t a facial expression with ‘jealousy’ written on it,” she said. “The expressions can be subtle and it is hard to attribute them to jealousy. If you were looking for jealousy, what would you be looking for? We look at a child’s response to loss of exclusivity and contrast it with responses which are displayed in other situations which involve maternal unresponsiveness.”

Hart is associate dean of research for Texas Tech’s College of Human Sciences and an associate professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies.


CONTACT: Dr. Sybil Hart, associate dean of research, College of Human Sciences, Texas Tech University, (806) 742-3031, or