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This study examined how temporal associations between parents’ physiological and behavioral responses may reflect underlying regulatory difficulties in at-risk parenting. Time-series data of cardiac indices (second-by-second estimates of inter-beat intervals – IBI, and respiratory sinus arrhythmia – RSA) and parenting behaviors were obtained from 204 child welfare-involved parents (88% mothers, Mage = 32.32 years) during child-led play with their 3- to 7-year-old children (45.1% female; Mage = 4.76 years). Known risk factors for maltreatment, including parents’ negative social cognitions, mental health symptoms, and inhibitory control problems, were examined as moderators of intra-individual physiology-behavior associations. Results of ordinary differential equations suggested increases in parents’ cardiac arousal at moments when they showed positive parenting behaviors. In turn, higher arousal was associated with momentary decreases in both positive and negative parenting behaviors. Individual differences in these dynamic processes were identified in association with parental risk factors. In contrast, no sample-wide RSA-behavior associations were evident, but a pattern of increased positive parenting at moments of parasympathetic withdrawal emerged among parents showing more total positive parenting behaviors. This study illustrated an innovative and ecologically-valid approach to examining regulatory patterns that may shape parenting in real-time and identified mechanisms that should be addressed in interventions.
Low resting respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA), and to a lesser extent excessive RSA reactivity to emotion evocation, are observed in many psychiatric disorders characterized by emotion dysregulation, including syndromes spanning the internalizing and externalizing spectra, and other conditions such as nonsuicidal self-injury. Nevertheless, some inconsistencies exist. For example, null outcomes in studies of RSA–emotion dysregulation relations are sometimes observed among younger participants. Such findings may derive from use of age inappropriate frequency bands in calculating RSA. We combine data from five published samples (N = 559) spanning ages 4 to 17 years, and reanalyze RSA data using age-appropriate respiratory frequencies. Misspecifying respiratory frequencies results in overestimates of resting RSA and underestimates of RSA reactivity, particularly among young children. Underestimates of developmental shifts in RSA and RSA reactivity from preschool to adolescence were also observed. Although correlational analyses revealed weak negative associations between resting RSA and aggression, those with clinical levels of externalizing exhibited lower resting RSA than their peers. No associations between RSA reactivity and externalizing were observed. Results confirm that age-corrected frequency bands should be used when estimating RSA, and that literature-wide overestimates of resting RSA, underestimates of RSA reactivity, and underestimates of developmental shifts in RSA and RSA reactivity may exist.
High rates of comorbidity are observed between internalizing and externalizing problems, yet the developmental dynamics of comorbid symptom presentations are not yet well understood. This study explored the developmental course of latent profiles of internalizing and externalizing symptoms across kindergarten, first grade, and second grade. The sample consisted of 336 children from an urban, low-income community, selected based on relatively high (61%) or low (39%) aggressive/oppositional behavior problems at school entry (64% male; 70% African American, 20% Hispanic). Teachers reported on children's symptoms in each year. An exploratory latent profile analysis of children's scores on aggression/oppositionality, hyperactivity/inattention, anxiety, and social withdrawal symptom factors revealed four latent symptom profiles: comorbid (48% of the sample in each year), internalizing (19%–23%), externalizing (21%–22%), and well-adjusted (7%–11%). The developmental course of these symptom profiles was examined using a latent transition analysis, which revealed remarkably high continuity in the comorbid symptom profile (89% from one year to the next) and moderately high continuity in both the internalizing and externalizing profiles (80% and 71%, respectively). Internalizing children had a 20% probability of remitting to the well-adjusted profile by the following year, whereas externalizing children had a 25% probability of transitioning to the comorbid profile. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that a common vulnerability factor contributes to developmentally stable internalizing–externalizing comorbidity, while also suggesting that some children with externalizing symptoms are at risk for subsequently accumulating internalizing symptoms.
During the last quarter century, developmental psychopathology has become increasingly inclusive and now spans disciplines ranging from psychiatric genetics to primary prevention. As a result, developmental psychopathologists have extended traditional diathesis–stress and transactional models to include causal processes at and across all relevant levels of analysis. Such research is embodied in what is known as the multiple levels of analysis perspective. We describe how multiple levels of analysis research has informed our current thinking about antisocial and borderline personality development among trait impulsive and therefore vulnerable individuals. Our approach extends the multiple levels of analysis perspective beyond simple Biology × Environment interactions by evaluating impulsivity across physiological systems (genetic, autonomic, hormonal, neural), psychological constructs (social, affective, motivational), developmental epochs (preschool, middle childhood, adolescence, adulthood), sexes (male, female), and methods of inquiry (self-report, informant report, treatment outcome, cardiovascular, electrophysiological, neuroimaging). By conducting our research using any and all available methods across these levels of analysis, we have arrived at a developmental model of trait impulsivity that we believe confers a greater understanding of this highly heritable trait and captures at least some heterogeneity in key behavioral outcomes, including delinquency and suicide.
Early onset aggression precipitates a cascade of risk factors, increasing the probability of a range of externalizing and internalizing psychopathological outcomes. Unfortunately, decades of research on the etiological contributions to the manifestation of aggression have failed to yield identification of any risk factors determined to be either necessary or sufficient, likely attributable to etiological heterogeneity within the construct of aggression. Differential pathways of etiological risk are not easily discerned at the behavioral or self-report level, particularly in young children, requiring multilevel analysis of risk pathways. This study focuses on three domains of risk to examine the heterogeneity in 207 urban kindergarten children with high levels of aggression: cognitive processing, socioemotional competence and emotion processing, and family context. The results indicate that 90% of children in the high aggression group could be characterized as either low in verbal ability or high in physiological arousal (resting skin conductance). Children characterized as low verbal, high arousal, or both differed in social and emotional competence, physiological reactivity to emotion, and aspects of family-based contextual risk. The implications of this etiologic heterogeneity of aggression are discussed in terms of assessment and treatment.
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