Advertisement

Physiological Regulation among Caregivers and their Children: Relations with Trauma History, Symptoms, and Parenting Behavior

  • Laurel KiserEmail author
  • Diana Fishbein
  • Lisa Gatzke-Kopp
  • Rebecca Vivrette
  • Kristine Creavey
  • Jennifer Stevenson
  • Deborah Medoff
  • Alex Busuito
Original Paper

Abstract

Objectives

Parents have the opportunity to influence the development of their children’s emotion regulation skills in a variety of capacities throughout childhood and into adolescence. Only recently have we begun to explore the physiological nature of this effect and implications for the influence of social factors on individual regulation of emotion in children. Also not well understood is how contextual and experiential factors influence this relationship by impacting emotional regulation skill development in children; e.g., parents’ experiences of trauma, loss, and stress may affect parenting behavior and child emotional and behavioral outcomes. To further advance our understanding, the present pilot study investigated how children, ages 9 to 14 years old, and their primary female caregivers (N = 41 dyads) respond physiologically to affective challenge, experienced both independently and jointly.

Methods

Using a community sample, we examined mother and child respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) while viewing a positive and negative video clip (task) either alone or jointly (condition). Further, we explored the influence of self-reported trauma/adversity experiences and symptoms and quality of parenting on RSA response in the dyads.

Results

Results indicate caregiver’s RSA responses were lower across conditions but demonstrated greater increases during the joint sessions than their children. Also, child and caregiver characteristics played a complex role; e.g., caregivers were more likely to increase RSA when with their child if they perceived their child to be suffering greater symptoms of trauma exposure.

Conclusions

Caregivers may be suppressing their own arousal to play a regulatory role for the benefit of their children.

Keywords

Respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) Mother–child dyads Emotion regulation Community sample Stress/trauma 

Notes

Author Contributions

L.J.K. designed and executed the study and wrote the paper. D.F. collaborated with the design and writing of the study and paper. L.G.K. analyzed the data, conceptualized results, and collaborated on writing the paper. R.V. and K.C. and J.S. collaborated on study methods, data analysis, and writing. D.M. analyzed the data and wrote part of the results. A.B. analyzed the data and wrote part of the results.

Funding

This study was funded by a Chair’s Challenge Award, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

References

  1. Beauchaine, T. (2001). Vagal tone, development, and Gray’s motivational theory: towards an integrated model of autonomic nervous system functioning in psychopathology. Development and Psychopathology, 13, 183–214.Google Scholar
  2. Bernard, K., & Dozier, M. (2010). Examining infants’ cortisol responses to laboratory tasks among children varying in attachment disorganization: stress reactivity or return to baseline. Developmental Psychology, 46, 1771–1778.Google Scholar
  3. Blevins, C. A., Weathers, F. W., Davis, M. T., Witte, T. K., & Domino, J. L. (2015). The posttraumatic stress disorder checklist for DSM-5 (PCL-5): development and initial psychometric evaluation. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 28, 489–498.Google Scholar
  4. Boucsein, W. (1992). Electrodermal activity. New York: Plenum University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Butler, E. A., Wilhelm, F. H., & Gross, J. J. (2006). Respiratory sinus arrhythmia, emotion, and emotion regulation during social interaction. Psychophysiology, 43, 612–622.Google Scholar
  6. Cole, P. M., & Deater-Deckard, K. (2009). Emotion regulation, risk, and psychopathology. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines, 50, 1327–1330.Google Scholar
  7. Cole, P. M., Martin, S. E., & Dennis, T. A. (2004). Emotion regulation as a scientific construct: methodological challenges and directions for child development research. Child Development, 75, 317–333.Google Scholar
  8. Connell, A. M., Dawson, G. C., Danzo, S., & McKillop, H. N. (2017). The psychophysiology of parenting: individual differences in autonomic reactivity to positive and negative mood inductions and observed parental affect during dyadic interactions with children. Journal of Family Psychology, 31, 30–40.Google Scholar
  9. Cooper, M., Shaver, P., & Collins, N. (1998). Attachment styles, emotion regulation and adjustment in adolescents. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74, 1380–1397.Google Scholar
  10. Del Guidice, M., Hinnant, J., Ellis, B., & El-Sheikh, M. (2011). Adaptive patterns of stress responsivity: a preliminary investigation. Developmental Psychology, 48, 775–790.Google Scholar
  11. Diamond, L., Fagundes, C., & Butterworth, M. (2011). Attachment style, vagal tone, and empathy during mother-adolescent interactions. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 22, 165–184.Google Scholar
  12. El-Sheikh, M., & Erath, S. (2011). Family conflict, autonomic nervous system functioning, and child adaptation: state of the science and future directions. Developmental Psychopathology, 23, 703–721.Google Scholar
  13. El-Sheikh, M., Harger, J., & Whitson, S. (2001). Exposure to interparental conflict and children’s adjustment and physical health: the moderating role of vagal tone. Child Development, 72, 1617–1636.Google Scholar
  14. El-Sheikh, M., Kouros, C., Erath, S., Cumming, E., Keller, & Staton, L. (2009). Marital conflict and children’s externalizing behavior: pathways involving interactions between parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous system activity. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 74, vii-79.Google Scholar
  15. Ehring, T., & Quack, D. (2010). Emotion regulation difficulties in trauma survivors: the role of trauma type and PTSD symptom severity. Behavior Therapy, 41, 587–598.Google Scholar
  16. Evans, G., & English, K. (2002). The environment of poverty: multiple stressor exposure, psychophysiological stress, and socioemotional adjustment. Child Development, 73, 1238–1248.Google Scholar
  17. Feldman, R., Magori-Cohen, R., Galili, G., Singer, M., & Louzoun, Y. (2011). Mother and infant coordinate heart rhythms through episodes of interaction synchrony. Infant Behavior and Development, 34, 569–577.Google Scholar
  18. Feldman, R. (2012). Bio-behavioral synchrony: a model for integrating biological and microsocial behavioral processes in the study of parenting. Parenting, 12, 154–164.Google Scholar
  19. Feldman, R., Singer, M., & Zagoory, O. (2010). Touch attenuates infants’ physiological reactivity to stress. Developmental Science, 13, 271–278.Google Scholar
  20. Felitti, V. J., Anda, R. F., Nordenberg, D., Williamson, D. F., Splitz, A. M., Edwards, V., Koss, M. P., & Marks, J. S. (1998). Relationship of childhood abuse and household dysfunction to many of the leading causes of death in adults: the adverse childhood experiences (ACE) study. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 14, 245–258.Google Scholar
  21. Fortunato, C. K., Gatzke-Kopp, L. M., & Ram, N. (2013). Associations between respiratory sinus arrhythmia reactivity and internalizing and externalizing symptoms are emotion specific. Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience, 13, 238–251.Google Scholar
  22. Fowler, J. C., Charak, R., Elhai, J. D., Allen, J. G., Frueh, B. C., & Oldham, J. M. (2014). Construct validity and factor structure of the difficulties in emotion regulation scale among adults with severe mental illness. Journal of Psychiatry Research, 58, 175–180.Google Scholar
  23. Gatzke-Kopp, L. M., Greenberg, M., & Bierman, K. (2013). Children’s parasympathetic reactivity to specific emotions moderates response to intervention for early-onset aggression. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 44, 291–304. 37–41.Google Scholar
  24. Gentzler, A. L., Santucci, A. K., Kovacs, M., & Fox, Na (2009). Respiratory sinus arrhythmia reactivity predicts emotion regulation and depressive symptoms in at-risk and control children. Biological Psychology, 82, 156–163.Google Scholar
  25. Giuliano, R. J., Skowron, E. A., & Berkman, E. T. (2015). Growth models of dyadic synchrony and mother–child vagal tone in the context of parenting at-risk. Biological Psychology, 105, 29–36.Google Scholar
  26. Gordis, E., Feres, N., Olezeski, C., Rabkin, A., & Trickett, P. (2010). Skin conductance reactivity and respiratory sinus arrhythmia among maltreated and comparison youth: relations with aggressive behavior. Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 35, 547–558.Google Scholar
  27. Gottman, J., & Katz, L. (2002). Children’s emotional reactions to stressful parent-child interactions: the link between emotion regulation and vagal tone. Marriage and Family Review, 34, 265–283.Google Scholar
  28. Gratz, K. L., & Roemer, L. (2004). Multidimensional assessment of emotion regulation and dysregulation: development, factor structure, and initial validation of the difficulties in emotion regulation scale. Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, 26, 41–54.Google Scholar
  29. Hastings, P., Nuselovici, J., Utendale, W., Coutya, J., McShane, K., & Sullivan, C. (2008). Applying the polyvagal theory to children’s emotion regulation: social context, socialization, and adjustment. Biological Psychology, 79, 299–306.Google Scholar
  30. Hinnant, J. B., Erath, S. A., & El-Sheikh, M. (2015). Harsh parenting, parasympathetic activity, and development of delinquency and substance use. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 124, 137–151.Google Scholar
  31. Kimerling, R. E., Clum, G. A., & Wolfe, J. (2000). Relationships among stressor exposure, chronic posttraumatic stress disorder, and self reported health in women. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 13, 115–129.  https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1007729116133.Google Scholar
  32. Kreibig, S. D. (2010). Autonomic nervous system activity in emotion: a review. Biological Psychology, 84, 394–421.Google Scholar
  33. Lang, P. J., Bradley, M. M., & Cuthbert, B. N. (2008). International affective picture system (IAPS). Gainesville, FL: Center for the Study of Emotion and Attention.Google Scholar
  34. Leclère, C., Viaux, S., Avril, M., Achard, C., Chetouani, M., Missonnier, S., & Cohen, D. (2014). Why synchrony matters during mother-child interactions: a systematic review. Translational Psychiatry, 9, 1–34.Google Scholar
  35. Lougheed, J. P., Craig, W. M., Pepler, D., Connolly, J., O’Hara, A., Granic, I., & Hollenstein, T. (2016). Maternal and peer regulation of adolescent emotion: associations with depressive symptoms. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 44, 963–974.Google Scholar
  36. Lovejoy, M. C., Weis, R., O’Hare, E., & Rubin, E. C. (1999). Development and initial validation of the parent behavior inventory. Psychological Assessment, 11, 534–545.Google Scholar
  37. Lunkenheimer, E., Kemp, C. J., Lucas-Thompson, R. G., Cole, P. M., & Albrecht, E. C. (2017). Assessing biobehavioural self-regulation and coregulation in early childhood: the parent-child challenge task. Infant and Child Development, 26(1), pii: e1965  https://doi.org/10.1002/icd.1965.Google Scholar
  38. Lunkenheimer, E., Tiberio, S.S., Skoranski, A.M., Buss, K.A., & Cole, P.M. (2018). Parent-child coregulation of parasympathetic processes varies by social context and risk for psychopathology. Psychophysiology. 55(2).  https://doi.org/10.1111/psyp.12985.
  39. MacDermott, S. T., Gullone, E., Allen, J. S., King, N. J., & Tonge, B. (2010). The emotion regulation index for children and adolescents (ERICA): a psychometric investigation. Journal of Psychophysiology Behavior Assessments, 32, 301–314.Google Scholar
  40. Masten, A. S. (2015). Ordinary magic: resilience in development. NY: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  41. McHugo, G., Caspi, Y., Kammerer, N., Mazelis, R., Jackson, E., & Russell, L., et al. (2005). The assessment of trauma history in women with cooccurring substance abuse and mental disorders and a history of interpersonal violence. Journal of Behavioral Health Services & Research, 32, 113–127.Google Scholar
  42. Mills-Koonce, W., Propper, C., Gariepy, J., Blair, C., Garrett-Peters, P., & Cox, M. (2007). Bidirectional genetic and environmental influences on mother and child behavior: the family system as the unit of analyses. Development and Psychopathology, 19, 1073–1087.Google Scholar
  43. Moffitt, T. E., Arseneault, L., Belsky, D., Dickson, N., Hancox, R. J., Harrington, H., & Sears, M. R. (2011). A gradient of childhood self-control predicts health, wealth, and public safety. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 108(7), 2693–2698.Google Scholar
  44. Moore, G. A., & Calkins, S. D. (2004). Infants’ vagal regulation in the still-face paradigm is related to dyadic coordination of mother–infant interaction. Developmental Psychology, 40, 1068–1080.Google Scholar
  45. Moore, G. A. (2009). Infants’ and mother’s vagal reactivity in response to anger. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 50, 1392–1400.Google Scholar
  46. Morris, A. S., Silk, J. S., Morris, M. D. S., Steinberg, L., Aucoin, K. J., & Keyes, A. W. (2011). The influence of mother-child emotion regulation strategies on children’s expression of anger and sadness. Developmental Psychology, 47, 213–225.Google Scholar
  47. Morris, A. S., Silk, J. S., Steinberg, L., Myers, S. S., & Robinson, L. R. (2007). The Role of family context in the development of emotion regulation. Social Development, 16, 361–388.Google Scholar
  48. Norris, F. (1992). Epidemiology of trauma: frequency and impact of different potentially traumatic events on different demographic groups. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 60, 409–418.Google Scholar
  49. Porges, S. (1995). Cardiac vagal tone: a physiological index of stress. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 19, 225–233.Google Scholar
  50. Porges, S. W. (2001). The polyvagal theory: Phylogenetic substrates of a social nervous system. International Journal of Psychophysiology Official Journal of the International Organization of Psychophysiology, 42, 123–146.Google Scholar
  51. Porges, S. (2007). The polyvagal perspective. Biological Psychology, 74, 116–143.Google Scholar
  52. Pratt, M., Apter-Levi, Y., Kanat-Maymon, Y., Zagoory-Sharon, O., & Feldman, R. (2017). Mother-child adrenocortical synchrony: moderation by dyadic relational behavior. Hormones and Behavior, 89(March 2017), 167–175.Google Scholar
  53. Rogers, M., Halberstadt, A., Castro, V., MacCormack, J., & Garrett-Peters, P. (2016). Maternal emotion socialization differentially predicts third-grade children’s emotion regulation and lability. Emotion, 16, 280–291.Google Scholar
  54. Rutherford, H. J. V., Wallace, N. S., Laurent, H. K., & Mayes, L. C. (2015). Emotion regulation in parenthood. Developmental Review, 36, 1–14.Google Scholar
  55. Seeman, T., Epel, E., Gruenewald, T., Karlamangla, A., & McEwen, B. S. (2010). Socio-economic differentials in peripheral biology: cumulative allostatic load. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1186, 223–239.Google Scholar
  56. Sheffield, A., Silk, J., Steinberg, L., Myers, S., & Robinson, L. (2007). The role of the family context in the development of emotion regulation. Social Development, 16, 361–388.Google Scholar
  57. Shonkoff, J. P. (2010). The foundations of lifelong health are built in early childhood. Harvard University Center on the Developing Child, 1–32. Retrieved from www.developingchild.harvard.edu.
  58. Siegel, J. P. (2013). Breaking the links in intergenerational violence: an emotional regulation perspective. Family Process, 52, 163–178.Google Scholar
  59. Skowron, E. A., Cipriano-Essel, E., Benjamin, L. S., & Pincus, A. L. (2013). Cardiac vagal tone and quality of parenting show concurrent and time-prdered associations that diverge in abusive, neglectful, and non-maltreating mothers. Couple Family Psychology, 2, 95–115.Google Scholar
  60. Skowron, E. A., Loken, E., Gatzke-Kopp, L. M., Cipriano-Essel, E. A., Woehrle, P. L., Van Epps, J. J., & Ammerman, R. T. (2011). Mapping cardiac physiology and parenting processes in maltreating mother-child dyads. Journal of Family Psychology, 25, 663–674.Google Scholar
  61. Spielberger, C. D., Gorsuch, R. L., Lushene, R., Vagg, P. R., & Jacobs, G. A. (1983). Manual for the state-trait anxiety inventory. Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press.Google Scholar
  62. Steinberg, A. M., Brymer, M., Decker, K., & Pynoos, R. S. (2004). The UCLA PTSD Reaction Index. Current Psychiatry Reports, 6, 96–100.Google Scholar
  63. Stifter, C., & Corey, J. (2001). Vagal regulation and observed social behavior in infancy. Social Development, 10, 189–201.Google Scholar
  64. Von Leupoldt, A., Rohde, J., Beregova, A., Thordsen-Sörensen, I., zur Nieden, J., & Dahme, B. (2007). Films for eliciting emotional states in children. Behavior Research Methods, 39, 606–609.Google Scholar
  65. Weathers, F.W., Litz, B.T., Keane, T.M., Palmieri, P.A., Marx, B.P., & Schnurr, P.P. (2013). The PTSD Checklist for DSM-5. http://www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/assessment/adult-sr/ptsd-checklist.asp.
  66. Weisman, O., Zagoory-Sharon, O., & Feldman, R. (2012). Oxytocin administration to parent enhances infant physiological and behavioral readiness for social engagement. Biological Psychiatry, 72, 982–989.Google Scholar
  67. Wilhelm, K., & Parker, G. (1990). Reliability of the parental bonding instrument and intimate bond measure scales. The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 24, 199–202.Google Scholar
  68. Wilson, S. R., Rack, J. J., Shi, X., & Norris, A. M. (2008). Comparing physically abusive, neglectful, and non-maltreating parents during interactions with their children: a meta-analysis of observational studies. Child Abuse & Neglect, 32, 897–911.Google Scholar
  69. Wolfe, J., & Kimerling, R. (1997). Gender issues in the assessment of posttraumatic stress disorder. In J. P. Wilson & T. M. Keane (Eds.), Assessing psychological trauma and PTSD (pp. 192–238). New York: Guildford.Google Scholar
  70. Wolfe, J., Kimerling, R., Brown, P. J., Chrestman, K. R., & Levin, K. (1996). Psychometric review of the life stressor checklist-revised. In B. H. Stamm (Ed.), Measurement of stress, trauma, and adaptation (pp. 198–201). Lutherville, MD: Sidran Press.Google Scholar
  71. Woltering, S., Lishak, V., Elliott, B., Ferraro, L., & Granic, I. (2015). Dyadic attunement and physiological synchrony during mother-child interactions: an exploratory study in children with and without externalizing behavior problems. Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, 37, 624–633.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The University of Maryland School of MedicineBaltimoreUSA
  2. 2.The Pennsylvania State UniversityState CollegeUSA

Personalised recommendations