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Lunkenheimer, E., Tiberio, S., Skoranski, A., Buss, K. A., & Cole, P. M. (in press). Parent-child coregulation of parasympathetic processes varies by social context and risk for psychopathology. Psychophysiology. doi. 10.1111/psyp.12985.

Abstract: The parasympathetic nervous system supports social interaction and varies in relation to psychopathology. However, we know little about parasympathetic processes from a dyadic framework, nor in early childhood when parent-child social interactions become more complex and child psychopathology first emerges. We hypothesized that higher risk for psychopathology (maternal psychopathology symptoms and child problem behavior) would be related to weaker concordance of respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) between mothers and children (M = 3½ years old; N = 47) and that these relations could vary by social contextual demands, comparing unstructured free play, semistructured cleanup, and structured teaching tasks. Multilevel coupled autoregressive models of RSA during parent-child interactions showed overall dynamic, positive concordance in mother-child RSA over time, but this concordance was weaker during the more structured teaching task. In contrast, higher maternal psychological aggression and child externalizing and internalizing problems were associated with weaker dyadic RSA concordance, which was weakest during unstructured free play. Higher maternal depressive symptoms were related to disrupted individual mother and child RSA but not to RSA concordance. Thus, risk for psychopathology was generally related to weaker dyadic mother-child RSA concordance in contexts with less complex structure or demands (free play, cleanup), as compared to the structured teaching task that showed weaker RSA concordance for all dyads. Implications for the meaning and utility of the construct of parent-child physiological coregulation are discussed.

 

Myruski, S., Gulyayeva, O., Birk2, S., Perez-Edgar, K., Buss, K. A., & Dennis-Tiwary, T. A. (in press). Digital Disruption? Maternal mobile device use is related to infant social-emotional functioning. Developmental Science

Abstract: Mobile device use has become increasingly prevalent, yet its impact on infant development remains largely unknown. When parents use mobile devices in front of infants, the parent is physically present but most likely distracted and unresponsive. Research using the classic Still Face Paradigm (SFP) suggests that parental withdrawal and unresponsiveness may have negative consequences for children’s social-emotional development. In the present study, 50 infants aged 7.20 to 23.60 months (M = 15.40, SD = 4.74) and their mothers completed a modified SFP. The SFP consisted of three phases: free play (FP; parent and infant play and interact), still face (SF; parent withdraws attention and becomes unresponsive), and reunion (RU; parent resumes normal interaction). The modified SFP incorporated mobile device use in the SF phase. Parents reported on their typical mobile device use and infant temperament. Consistent with the standard SFP, infants showed more negative affect and less positive affect during SF versus FP. Infants also showed more toy engagement and more engagement with mother during FP versus SF and RU. Infants showed the most social bids during SF and more room exploration in SF than RU. More frequent reported mobile device use was associated with less room exploration and positive affect during SF, and less recovery (i.e. engagement with mother, room exploration positive affect) during RU, even when controlling for individual differences in temperament. Findings suggest that the SFP represents a promising theoretical framework for understanding the impact of parent’s mobile device use on infant social-emotional functioning and parent-infant interactions.

 

Perez-Edgar, K., Morales, S., LoBue, V., Taber-Thomas, B. C., Allen, E. K., Brown K. M., & Buss, K.A. (in press). The impact of negative affect on attention patterns to threat across the first two years of life. Developmental Psychology.

Abstract: The current study examined the relations between individual differences in attention to emotion faces and temperamental negative affect across the first two years of life. Infant studies have noted a normative pattern of preferential attention to salient cues, particularly angry faces. A parallel literature suggests that elevated attention bias to threat is associated with anxiety, particularly if coupled with temperamental risk. Examining the emerging relations between attention to threat and temperamental negative affect may help distinguish normative from at-risk patterns of attention. Infants (N=145) ages 4 to 24 months (Mean=12.93 months, SD=5.57) completed an eye-tracking task modeled on the attention bias “dot-probe” task used with older children and adults. With age, infants spent greater time attending to emotion faces, particularly threat faces. All infants displayed slower latencies to fixate to incongruent versus congruent probes. Neither relation was moderated by temperament. Trial-by-trial analyses found that dwell time to the face was associated with latency to orient to subsequent probes, moderated by the infant’s age and temperament. In young infants low in negative affect longer processing of angry faces was associated with faster subsequent fixation to probes; young infants high in negative affect displayed the opposite pattern at trend. Findings suggest that although age was directly associated with an emerging bias to threat, the impact of processing threat on subsequent orienting was associated with age and temperament. Early patterns of attention may shape how children respond to their environments, potentially via attention’s gate-keeping role in framing a child’s social world for processing.

 

Buss, K. A. Davis EL, Ram, N, Coccia, M. (in press) Dysregulated fear, social inhibition, and RSA: A replication an extension. Child Development. doi. 10.1111/cdev.12774

Abstract: Behavioral inhibition indicates increased risk for development of social anxiety. Recent work has identified a pattern of dysregulated fear (DF), characterized by high fear in low-threat situations, that provides a more precise marker of developmental risk through early childhood. This study tested a new longitudinal sample of children (= 124) from ages 24 to 48 months. Replicating prior findings, at 24 months, we identified a pattern of fearful behavior across contexts marked by higher fear to putatively low-threat situations. DF was associated with higher parental report of social inhibition at 24, 36, and 48 months. Extending prior findings, we observed differences in cardiac physiology during fear-eliciting situations, suggesting that the neurobiological underpinnings of DF relate to difficulty with regulation.

 

Dollar, J., Stifter. C., Buss, K. A.  (in press) Exuberant and Inhibited Children: Person-centered Profiles and Links to Social Adjustment. Developmental Psychology.

Abstract: The current study aimed to substantiate and extend our understanding regarding the existence and developmental pathways of 3 distinct temperament profiles-exuberant, inhibited, and average approach-in a sample of 3.5-year-old children (n = 121). The interactions between temperamental styles and specific types of effortful control, inhibitory control and attentional control, were also examined in predicting kindergarten peer acceptance. Latent profile analysis identified 3 temperamental styles: exuberant, inhibited, and average approach. Support was found for the adaptive role of inhibitory control for exuberant children and attentional control for inhibited children in promoting peer acceptance in kindergarten. These findings add to our current understanding of temperamental profiles by using sophisticated methodology in a slightly older, community sample, as well as the importance of examining specific types of self-regulation to identify which skills lower risk for children of different temperamental styles. 

 

Cho, S. & Buss, K. A. (in press). Toddler Parasympathetic Regulation and Fear: Links to Maternal Appraisal and Behavior. Developmental Psychobiology.

Abstract: There is a growing recognition that parental socialization influences interact with young children's emerging capacity for physiological regulation and shape children's developmental trajectories. Nevertheless, the transactional processes linking parental socialization and physiological regulatory processes remain not well understood, particularly for fear-prone toddlers. To address this gap in the literature, the present study investigated the biopsychosocial processes that underlie toddlers’ fear regulation by examining the relations among toddler parasympathetic regulation, maternal appraisal, and parenting behaviors. Participants included 124 mothers and their toddlers (Mage = 24.43 months), who participated in a longitudinal study of temperament and socio-emotional development. Toddlers’ parasympathetic reactivity was found to moderate the links between maternal anticipatory appraisal of child fearfulness and (a) maternal provision of physical comfort and (b) preschool-age child inhibition. Additionally, maternal comforting behaviors during the low-threat task predicted preschool-age separation distress, specifically for toddlers demonstrating a low baseline RSA.

LoBue, V., Buss, K. A., Tabor-Thomas, B., & Perez-Edgar, K., (in press). Developmental differences in infants’ attention to social and nonsocial threats. Infancy

Abstract: Research has demonstrated that humans detect threatening stimuli more rapidly than nonthreatening stimuli. Although the literature presumes that biases for threat should be normative, present early in development, evident across multiple forms of threat, and stable across individuals, developmental work in this area is limited. Here, we examine the developmental differences in infants' (4- to 24-month-olds) attention to social (angry faces) and nonsocial (snakes) threats using a new age-appropriate dot-probe task. In Experiment 1, infants' first fixations were more often to snakes than to frogs, and they were faster to fixate probes that appeared in place of snakes vs. frogs. There were no significant age differences, suggesting that a perceptual bias for snakes is present early in life and stable across infancy. In Experiment 2, infants fixated probes more quickly after viewing any trials that contained an angry face compared to trials that contained a happy face. Further, there were age-related changes in infants' responses to face stimuli, with a general increase in looking time to faces before the probe and an increase in latency to fixate the probe after seeing angry faces. Together, this work suggests that different developmental mechanisms may be responsible for attentional biases for social vs. nonsocial threats.

 

Cho, S. Philbrook, L.E., Davis, E. L., & Buss, K. A. (2017). Sleep duration and RSA suppression as predictors of internalizing and externalizing behaviors. Developmental Psychobiology, 59, 60-69. doi. 10.1002/dev.21467

Abstract: Although the conceptual interplay among the biological and clinical features of sleep, arousal, and emotion regulation has been noted, little is understood about how indices of sleep duration and parasympathetic reactivity operate jointly to predict adjustment in early childhood. Using a sample of 123 toddlers, the present study examined sleep duration and RSA reactivity as predictors of internalizing and externalizing behaviors. Parents reported on children's sleep duration and adjustment. RSA reactivity was assessed via children's responses to fear-eliciting stimuli and an inhibitory control challenge. Findings demonstrated that greater RSA suppression to both types of tasks in combination with longer sleep duration was concurrently associated with less internalizing. In contrast, greater RSA augmentation to an inhibitory control task in the context of shorter sleep duration predicted more externalizing 1 year later. The significance of duration of toddlers’ sleep as well as the context in which physiological regulatory difficulties occurs is discussed.

 

Lunkenheimer, E., Tiberio, S. S., Buss, K. A., Lucas-Thompson, R. G., Boker, S. M., & Timpe, Z. C. (2016). Coregulation of respiratory sinus arrhythmia between parents and preschoolers: Differences by children's externalizing problems. Developmental Psychobiology, 57, 994-1003. doi. 10.1002/dev.21323

Abstract: The coordination of physiological processes between parents and infants is thought to support behaviors critical for infant adaptation, but we know little about parent-child physiological coregulation during the preschool years. The present study examined whether time-varying changes in parent and child respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) exhibited coregulation (across-person dynamics) accounting for individual differences in parent and child RSA, and whether there were differences in these parasympathetic processes by children's externalizing problems. Mother-child dyads (N = 47; Child age M = 3½ years) engaged in three laboratory tasks (free play, clean up, puzzle task) for 18 min, during which RSA data were collected. Multilevel coupled autoregressive models revealed that mothers and preschoolers showed positive coregulation of RSA such that changes in mother RSA predicted changes in the same direction in child RSA and vice versa, controlling for the stability of within-person RSA over time and individual differences in overall mean RSA. However, when children's externalizing behaviors were higher, coregulation was negative such that changes in real-time mother and child RSA showed divergence rather than positive concordance. Results suggest that mothers and preschoolers do coregulate RSA during real-time interactions, but that children's higher externalizing behavior problems are related to disruptions in these processes.

 

Kiel, E. J., Premo, J. E., & Buss, K. A. (2016). Gender moderates the progression from fearful temperament to social withdrawal through protective parenting. Social Development, 25, 235-255. doi. 10.1111/sode.12145

Abstract: Child gender may exert its influence on development, not as a main effect, but as a moderator among predictors and outcomes. We examined this notion in relations among toddler fearful temperament, maternal protective parenting, maternal accuracy in predicting toddler distress to novelty, and child social withdrawal. In two multi-method, longitudinal studies of toddlers (24 months at Time 1; ns = 93 and 117, respectively) and their mothers, few main effect gender differences occurred. Moderation existed in both studies: only for highly accurate mothers of boys, fearful temperament related to protective parenting, which then predicted later social withdrawal. Thus, studying only main-effect gender differences may obscure important differences in how boys and girls develop from fearful temperament to later social withdrawal.