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Regulating sadness and fear from outside and within: Mothers' emotion socialization and adolescents' parasympathetic regulation predict the development of internalizing difficulties

  • Paul D. Hastings (a1), Bonnie Klimes-Dougan (a2), Kimberly T. Kendziora (a3), Ann Brand (a4) and Carolyn Zahn-Waxler (a5)...


Multilevel models of developmental psychopathology implicate both characteristics of the individual and their rearing environment in the etiology of internalizing problems and disorders. Maladaptive regulation of fear and sadness, the core of anxiety and depression, arises from the conjoint influences of ineffective parasympathetic regulation of emotion and ineffective emotion socialization experiences. In 171 youths (84 female, M = 13.69 years, SD = 1.84), we measured changes of respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) in response to sadness- and fear-inducing film clips and maternal supportive and punitive responses to youths' internalizing emotions. Youths and mothers reported on youths' internalizing problems and anxiety and depression symptoms concurrently and 2 years later at Time 2. Maternal supportive emotion socialization predicted fewer, and punitive socialization predicted more, mother-reported internalizing problems at Time 2 only for youths who showed RSA suppression to fear-inducing films. More RSA suppression to sadness-inducing films predicted more youth-reported internalizing problems at Time 2 in girls only. In addition, less supportive emotion socialization predicted more youth-reported depression symptoms at Time 2 only for girls who showed more RSA suppression to sadness. RSA suppression to sadness versus fear might reflect different patterns of atypical parasympathetic regulation of emotional arousal, both of which increase the risk for internalizing difficulties in youths, and especially girls, who lack maternal support for regulating emotions.


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Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Paul D. Hastings, Center for Mind & Brain, University of California, Davis, 267 Cousteau Place, Davis, CA 95618; E-mail:


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Regulating sadness and fear from outside and within: Mothers' emotion socialization and adolescents' parasympathetic regulation predict the development of internalizing difficulties

  • Paul D. Hastings (a1), Bonnie Klimes-Dougan (a2), Kimberly T. Kendziora (a3), Ann Brand (a4) and Carolyn Zahn-Waxler (a5)...


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