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13-02-2019 | Original Paper | Uitgave 4/2019 Open Access

Journal of Child and Family Studies 4/2019

Correlates of Parent-Child Physiological Synchrony and Emotional Parenting: Differential Associations in Varying Interactive Contexts

Journal of Child and Family Studies > Uitgave 4/2019
Zhuo Rachel Han, Mengyu M. Gao, Julia Yan, Xiaoyi Hu, Wen Zhou, Xiaomei Li
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Parent-child synchrony during interaction might possess important features that underlie parenting processes throughout development. However, little is known regarding the association between parent-child physiological synchrony and emotional parenting behaviors during middle childhood. The main goal of the study was to examine whether emotional parenting was positively or negatively associated with parent-child physiological synchrony for school-age children.


Adopting a biopsychosocial perspective, we incorporated the interbeat interval (IBI) and behavioral observation data of 150 parent-child dyads (child M age = 8.77, SD= 1.80) to explore the patterns of moment-to-moment dyadic physiological synchrony and to investigate whether these patterns were associated with two emotional parenting behaviors (psychological control and psychological unavailability).


Our findings provided some initial evidence that in low to moderately stressful situations that mimic daily parent-child interaction, parent-child physiological synchrony was indicative of different emotional parenting behaviors in various parent-child interactive situations. Specifically, in the collaborative context (parent-child working together to complete a task), parent-child physiological synchrony was indicative of less psychological unavailability, whereas in the competitive context (parent-child resolving disagreement with each other), parent-child physiological synchrony was indicative of less psychological control. The study implications and future research directions are discussed.


Overall, our findings suggested that dyadic physiological synchrony, indexed by parent-child moment-to-moment matching of IBI, was associated with fewer negative emotional parenting behaviors.

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