Stefania Vacaru

Senior researcher

About me

HomeDevelopmental PsychobiologyStefania Vacaru

All aspects of development fascinate me, but what is particularly at my heart is the early development. How do tiny creatures come into the world and so quickly adapt to their environment, which largely shapes whom they will become as adults?

The thread of my research is particularly the early caregiving environment, or the parent-child interactions from the first moments of the baby’s life. It is within these early interactions that babies learn about the social world and about themselves as social actors in the world, the world of emotions and empathy, and acquire many cognitive and linguistic abilities.

In my research, I investigated the contribution of these early relationships to child development from three perspectives:

  • Clinical: how disrupted early relationships lead to negative self-concept in institutionalized children (Vacaru et al., 2018);
  • Experimental: how the quality of parent-child relations, also known as attachment relates to later children’s socio-emotional behaviours towards others (Vacaru et al., 2019, 2020);
  • And most recently the psychobiological perspective, namely how early pre/postnatal psychobiological stress influences infant’s biobehavioural development. In one of the latest studies, the COPE Study, I investigated what it is like to be pregnant or have a small child or a childwish during a major pandemic, like COVID-19 and how the changes in (future) parents’ lives may contribute to changes in childcare practices and their children development.

Read more

Vacaru, S. V. (2021). How do kids start to connect with others? Hands-on Scientist, Sept. 2021.

Vacaru, V. S., Sterkenburg, P. S., & Schuengel, C. (2018). Self‐concept in institutionalized children with disturbed attachment: The mediating role of exploratory behaviours. Child: care, health and development, 44(3), 476-484.

Vacaru, S. V., van Schaik, J. E., & Hunnius, S. (2019). The modulation of facial mimicry by attachment tendencies and their underlying affiliation motives in 3-year-olds: An EMG study. Plos one, 14(7), e0218676.

Vacaru, S. V., Van Schaik, J. E., De Water, E., & Hunnius, S. (2020). Five-year-olds’ facial mimicry following social ostracism is modulated by attachment security. Plos one, 15(12), e0240680.