Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home

Autonomic reactivity in relation to attachment and early adversity among foster children

  • Mirjam Oosterman (a1), J. Clasien De Schipper (a1), Philip Fisher (a2), Mary Dozier (a3) and Carlo Schuengel (a1)...

Abstract

This study examined whether the quality of relationships with foster caregivers was associated with autonomic nervous system reactivity of children during separation and reunion with their foster caregiver. Moreover, effects of early adversity were examined in relation to attachment and autonomic nervous system reactivity. The sample included 60 children between 26 and 88 months of age, who participated with their primary foster caregivers in the Strange Situation. Respiratory sinus arrhythmia and preejection period were measured as indicators of parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous system reactivity, respectively. Attachment quality (ordered/disordered and secure/insecure attachment), was coded on the basis of children's behavior in the Strange Situation using the Cassidy and Marvin coding system. Children with a background of neglect and those with disordered (disorganized–controlling or insecure–other) attachment showed most sympathetic reactivity during the procedure. Moreover, children with disordered attachment showed less vagal regulation (respiratory sinus arrhythmia decreases on separation and increases on reunion) than children with ordered attachment. The findings show that the quality of relationships with current caregivers, and to a lesser extent specific experiences of neglect, may have an impact on children's abilities to regulate emotions in the context of environmental stress and challenges.

Copyright

Corresponding author

Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Mirjam Oosterman, Department of Clinical Child and Family Studies, VU University Amsterdam, Van der Boechorststraat 1, Amsterdam 1081 BT, The Netherlands; E-mail: m.oosterman@psy.vu.nl.

References

Hide All
Ainsworth, M. D. S., Blehar, M., Waters, E., & Wall, S. (1978). Patterns of attachment. A psychological study of the strange situation. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Beauchaine, T. (2001). Vagal tone, development, and Gray's motivational theory: Toward an integrated model of autonomic nervous system functioning in psychopathology. Development and Psychopathology, 13, 183214.
Beauchaine, T., Gatzke-Kopp, L., & Mead, H. K. (2007). Polyvagal theory and developmental psychopathology: Emotion dysregulation and conduct problems from preschool to adolescence. Biological Psychology, 74, 174184.
Boyce, W. T., Quas, J., Alkon, A., Smider, N. A., Essex, M. J., & Kupfer, D. J. (2001). Autonomic reactivity and psychopathology in middle childhood. British Journal of Psychiatry, 179, 144150.
Bruce, J., Fisher, P. A., Pears, K. C., & LeVine, S. (2009). Morning cortisol levels in preschool-aged foster children: Differential effects of maltreatment type. Developmental Psychobiology, 51, 1423.
Bruce, J., Kroupina, M., Parker, S., & Gunnar, M. (2000). The relationships between cortisol patterns, growth retardation, and developmental delays in postinstitutionalized children. Paper presented at the International Conference on Infant Studies, Brighton, UK.
Cacioppo, J. T., Uchino, B. N., & Berntson, G. G. (1994). Individual differences in the autonomic origins of heart rate reactivity: The psychometrics of respiratory sinus arrhythmia and pre ejection period. Psychophysiology 31, 412419.
Calkins, S. D., & Hill, A. (2007). Caregiver influences on emerging emotion regulation: Biological and environmental transactions in early development. In Gross, J. J. (Ed.) Handbook of emotion regulation (pp. 326). New York: Guilford Press.
Cassidy, J., & Marvin, R. S. (1992). Attachment organization in preschool children: Procedures and coding manual. Seattle, WA: John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Network on the Transition From Infancy to Early Childhood.
Cicchetti, D., & Rogosch, F. A. (2001a). Diverse patterns of neuroendocrine activity in maltreated children. Development and Psychopathology, 13, 677693.
Cicchetti, D., & Rogosch, F. A. (2001b). The impact of child maltreatment and psychopathology on neuroendocrine functioning. Development and Psychopathology, 13, 783804.
Crittenden, P. A. (1992). Quality of attachment in the preschool years. Development and Psychopathology, 4, 209241.
De Geus, E. J. C., & Van Doornen, L. J. P. (1996). Ambulatory assessment of parasympathetic/sympathetic balance by impedance cardiography. In Fahrenberg, J. & Myrtek, M. (Eds.) Ambulatory assessment: Computer assisted psychological and psychophysiological methods in monitoring and field studies (pp. 141164). Berlin: Hogrefe & Huber.
De Geus, E. J. C., Willemsen, A. H. M., Klaver, C. H. A. M., & Van Doornen, L. J. P. (1995). Ambulatory measurement of respiratory sinus arrhythmia and respiration rate. Biological Psychology, 41, 205227.
Dozier, M., Manni, M., Gordon, M. K., Peloso, E., Gunnar, M. R., Stovall-McClough, K. C., et al. (2006). Foster children's diurnal production of cortisol: An exploratory study. Child Maltreatment, 11, 189197.
Dozier, M., Peloso, E., Lewis, E., Laurenceau, J. P., & Levine, S. (2008). Effects of an attachment-based intervention on the cortisol production of infants and toddlers in foster care. Development and Psychopathology. 20, 845859.
Dozier, M., Stovall, K. C., Albus, K. E., & Bates, B. (2001). Attachment for infants in foster care: The role of caregiver state of mind. Child Development, 72, 14671477.
Ellis, B. J., Essex, M. J., & Boyce, W. T. (2005). Biological sensitivity to context: II. Empirical explorations of an evolutionary–developmental theory. Development and Psychopathology, 17,
Fisher, P. A., Gunnar, M. R., Chamberlain, P., & Reid, R. B. (2000). Preventative intervention for maltreated preschool children: Impact on children's behaviour, neuroendocrine activity, and foster parent functioning. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 39, 13561364.
Fox, N. A., & Hane, A. A. (2008). Studying the biology of human attachment. In Shaver, P. R. & Cassidy, J. (Eds.) Handbook of attachment (2nd ed., pp. 217241). New York: Guilford Press.
Grossman, P., Van Beek, J., & Wientjes, C. (1990). A comparison of three quantification methods for estimation of respiratory sinus arrhythmia. Psychophysiology, 27, 702714.
Gunnar, M. R, Broderson, L., Nachmias, M., Buss, K., & Rigatuso, J. (1996). Stress reactivity and attachment security. Developmental Psychobiology, 29, 191204.
Gunnar, M. R., & Donzella, B. (2002). Social regulation of the cortisol levels in early human development. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 27, 199220.
Gunnar, M. R., Fisher, P. A., & The Early Experience, Stress, and Prevention Network (2006). Bringing basic research on early experience and stress neurobiology to bear on preventive intervention research on neglected and maltreated children. Development and Psychopathology, 18, 651677.
Gunnar, M. R., & Quevedo, K. (2007). The neurobiology of stress and development. Annual Review of Psychology, 58, 145173.
Heim, C., Newport, D. J., Heit, S., Graham, Y. P., Wilcox, M., Bonsall, R., et al. (2000). Pituitary–adrenal and autonomic responses to stress in women after sexual and physical abuse in childhood. Journal of the American Medical Association, 284, 592597.
Hertsgaard, L., Gunnar, M., Erickson, M. F., & Nachmias, M. (1995). Adrenocortical responses to the strange situation in infants with disorganized/disoriented attachment relationships. Child Development, 66, 11001106.
Hill-Soderlund, A. L., Mills-Koonce, W. R., Propper, C., Calkins, S. D., Granger, D. A., Moore, G. A., et al. (2008). Parasympathetic and sympathetic responses to the strange situation in infants and mothers from avoidant and securely attached dyads. Developmental Psychobiology, 50, 361376.
Hofer, M. A. (2006). Psychobiological roots of early attachment. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 15, 8488.
Main, M., & Cassidy, J. (1988).Categories of response to reunion with the parent at age six: predictable from infant attachment classifications and stable over a 1-month period. Developmental Psychology, 24, 415526.
Main, M., & Hesse, E. (1990). Parents' unresolved traumatic experiences are related to infant disorganized attachment status: Is frightened and/or frightening behaviour parental behavior the linking mechanism? In Greenberg, M. T., Cicchetti, D., & Cummings, E. M. (Eds.), Attachment in the preschool years (pp. 161182). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Main, M., & Solomon, J. (1990). Procedures for identifying infants as disorganized/disoriented during the Ainsworth strange situation. In Greenberg, M. T., Cicchetti, D., & Cummings, E. M. (Eds.), Attachment in the preschool years (pp. 121160). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Moss, E., Bureau, J.-F., Cyr, C., Mongeau, C., & St-Laurent, D. (2004). Correlates of attachment at age 3: Construct validity of the preschool attachment classification system. Developmental Psychology, 40, 323334.
Moss, E., Cyr, C., Bureau, J.-F., Tarabulsy, G. M., & Dubois-Comtois, K. (2005). Stability of attachment during the preschool period. Developmental Psychology, 41, 773783.
Moss, E., Rousseau, D., Parent, S., & Saintonge, J. (1998). Correlates of attachment at school age: Maternal reported stress, mother–child interaction, and behavior problems. Child Development, 69, 13901405.
Nachmias, M., Gunnar, M., Mangelsdorf, S., Parritz, R. H., & Buss, K. (1996). Behavioral inhibition and stress reactivity: The moderating role of attachment security. Child Development, 67, 508522.
Oosterman, M., & Schuengel, C. (2008). Attachment in foster children associated with caregivers' sensitivity and behavioral problems. Infant Mental Health Journal, 29, 609623.
Porges, S. W. (1995). Orienting in a defensive world: Mammalian modifications of our evolutionary heritage. A polyvagal theory. Psychophysiology, 32, 301318.
Porges, S. W. (2004). Social engagement and attachment: A phylogenetic perspective. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1008, 3147.
Riese, H., Groot, P. F. C., Van Den Berg, M., Kupper, N. H. M., Magnee, E. H. B., Rohaan, E. J., et al. (2003). Large-scale ensemble averaging of ambulatory impedance cardiograms. Behavior Research Methods, Instruments, and Computers, 35, 467477.
Schuengel, C., Bakermans-Kranenburg, M. J., & Van IJzendoorn, M. H. (1999). Frightening maternal behavior linking unresolved loss and disorganized infant attachment. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 67, 5463.
Sherwood, A., Allen, M. T., Fahrenbert, J., Kelsey, R. M., Lovallo, W. R., & Van Doornen, L. J. P. (1990). Committee report: methodological guidelines for impedance cardiography, Psychophysiology, 27, 123.
Sherwood, A., Allen, M. T., Obrist, P. A., & Langer, A. W. (1986). Evaluation of beta-adrenergic influences on cardiovascular and metabolic adjustments to physical and psychological stress. Psychophysiology, 23, 89104.
Spangler, G., & Grossman, K. E. (1993). Biobehavioral organization in securely and insecurely attached children. Child Development, 64, 14391450.
Spangler, G., & Schieche, M. (1998). Emotional and adrenocortical responses of infants to the strange situation: The differential function of emotional expression. International Journal of Behavioural Development, 22, 681706.
Sroufe, L. A., & Waters, E. (1977). Heart rate as a convergent measure in clinical and developmental research. Merrill–Palmer Quarterly, 23, 327.
Stevenson-Hinde, J., & Marshall, P. J. (1999). Behavioral inhibition, heart period, and respiratory sinus arrhythmia: An attachment perspective. Child Development, 70, 805816.
Stovall, K. C., & Dozier, M. (2000). The development of attachment in new relationships: Single subject analyses for 10 foster infants. Development and Psychopathology, 12, 133156.
Van IJzendoorn, M. H., Schuengel, C., & Bakermans-Kranenburg, M. J. (1999). Disorganized attachment in early childhood: Meta-analysis of precursors, concomitants and sequelae. Development and Psychopathology, 11, 225249.
Waters, E., & Deane, K. E. (1985). Defining and assessing individual differences in attachment relationships: Q-methodology and the organization of behavior in infancy and early childhood. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 50, 4165.
Willemsen, G. H. M., De Geus, E. J. C., Klaver, C. H. A. M., Van Doornen, L. J. P., & Carroll, D. (1996). Ambulatory monitoring of the impedance cardiogram. Psychophysiology, 33, 184193.
Willemsen-Swinkels, S. H. N., Bakermans-Kranenburg, M. J., Buitelaar, J. K., Van IJzendoorn, M. H., & Van Engeland, H. (2000). Insecure and disorganised attachment in children with a pervasive developmental disorder: Relationship with social interaction and heart rate. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 41, 759767.
Zelenko, M., Kraemer, H., Huffman, L., Gschwendt, M., Pageler, N., & Steiner, H. (2005). Heart rate correlates of attachment status in young mothers and their infants. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 44, 470476.

Autonomic reactivity in relation to attachment and early adversity among foster children

  • Mirjam Oosterman (a1), J. Clasien De Schipper (a1), Philip Fisher (a2), Mary Dozier (a3) and Carlo Schuengel (a1)...

Metrics

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed