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11-06-2015 | Uitgave 3/2016

Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology 3/2016

Dimensions of Maternal Parenting and Infants’ Autonomic Functioning Interactively Predict Early Internalizing Behavior Problems

Research on Child and Adolescent Psychopathology > Uitgave 3/2016
Nicholas J. Wagner, Cathi Propper, Noa Gueron-Sela, W. Roger Mills-Koonce


Developmental pathways to childhood internalizing behavior problems are complex, with both environmental and child-level factors contributing to their emergence. The authors use data from a prospective longitudinal study (n = 206) to examine the associations between dimensions of caregiving experiences in the first year of life and anxious/depressed and withdrawn behaviors in early childhood. Additionally, the authors examine the extent to which these associations were moderated by infants’ autonomic functioning in the first year of life indexed using measures of respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) and heart period (HP). Findings suggest that higher levels of maternal sensitivity in infancy are associated with fewer anxious/depressed and withdrawn behaviors at age 3 years. Negative intrusiveness was found to be positively associated with children’s anxious/depressed behaviors but not withdrawn behaviors. Further, moderation analyses suggested that the link between negative intrusive parenting during infancy and subsequent anxious/depressed behaviors is exacerbated for infants with average or low baseline HP and that positive engaging parenting during infancy was negatively related to withdrawn behaviors for infants demonstrating average to high levels baseline HP. Interestingly, RSA was not found to moderate the associations between parenting in infancy and later internalizing behavior problems suggesting that, during infancy, overall autonomic functioning may have greater implications for the development of internalizing behaviors than do parasympathetic influences alone. Implications of these findings and future directions for research are discussed.

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