Publications by authors named "Elizabeth A Skowron"

33 Publications

PCIT engagement and persistence among child welfare-involved families: Associations with harsh parenting, physiological reactivity, and social cognitive processes at intake.

Dev Psychopathol 2021 Mar 26:1-18. Epub 2021 Mar 26.

College of Education, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR, USA.

Parent-Child interaction therapy (PCIT) has been shown to improve positive, responsive parenting and lower risk for child maltreatment (CM), including among families who are already involved in the child welfare system. However, higher risk families show higher rates of treatment attrition, limiting effectiveness. In N = 120 child welfare families randomized to PCIT, we tested behavioral and physiological markers of parent self-regulation and socio-cognitive processes assessed at pre-intervention as predictors of retention in PCIT. Results of multinomial logistic regressions indicate that parents who declined treatment displayed more negative parenting, greater perceptions of child responsibility and control in adult-child transactions, respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) increases to a positive dyadic interaction task, and RSA withdrawal to a challenging, dyadic toy clean-up task. Increased odds of dropout during PCIT's child-directed interaction phase were associated with greater parent attentional bias to angry facial cues on an emotional go/no-go task. Hostile attributions about one's child predicted risk for dropout during the parent-directed interaction phase, and readiness for change scores predicted higher odds of treatment completion. Implications for intervening with child welfare-involved families are discussed along with study limitations.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0954579421000031DOI Listing
March 2021

Study Protocol: The Coaching Alternative Parenting Strategies (CAPS) Study of Parent-Child Interaction Therapy in Child Welfare Families.

Front Psychiatry 2020 2;11:839. Epub 2020 Sep 2.

Center for Translational Neuroscience, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR, United States.

Background: Child maltreatment (CM) constitutes a serious public health problem in the United States with parents implicated in a majority of physical abuse and neglect cases. Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) is an intensive intervention for CM families that uses innovative "bug-in-ear" coaching to improve parenting and child outcomes, and reduce CM recidivism; however, the mechanisms underlying its effects are little understood. The Coaching Alternative Parenting Strategies (CAPS) study aims to clarify the behavioral, neural, and physiological mechanisms of action in PCIT that support positive changes in parenting, improve parent and child self-regulation and social perceptions, and reduce CM in child welfare-involved families.

Methods: The CAPS study includes 204 child welfare-involved parent-child dyads recruited from Oregon Department of Human Services to participate in a randomized controlled trial of PCIT versus a services-as-usual control condition (clinicaltrials.gov, NCT02684903). Children ages 3-8 years at study entry and their parents complete a pre-treatment assessment prior to randomization and a post-treatment assessment 9-12 months post study entry. Dyads randomized to PCIT complete an additional, abbreviated assessment at mid-treatment. Each assessment includes individual and joint measures of parents' and children's cardiac physiology at rest, during experimental tasks, and in recovery; observational coding of parent-child interactions; and individual electroencephalogram (EEG) sessions including attentional and cognitive control tasks. In addition, parents and children complete an emotion regulation task and parents report on their own and their child's adverse childhood experiences and socio-cognitive processes, while children complete a cognitive screen and a behavioral measure of inhibitory control. Parents and children also provide anthropometric measures of allostatic load and 4-5 whole blood spots to assess inflammation and immune markers. CM recidivism is assessed for all study families at 6-month follow-up. Post-treatment and follow-up assessments are currently underway.

Discussion: Knowledge gained from this study will clarify PCIT effects on neurobehavioral target mechanisms of change in predicting CM risk reduction, positive, responsive parenting, and children's outcomes. This knowledge can help to guide efforts to tailor and adapt PCIT to vary in dosage and cost on the basis of individual differences in CM-risk factors.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2020.00839DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7495141PMC
September 2020

Dyadic synchrony and repair processes are related to preschool children's risk exposure and self-control.

Dev Psychopathol 2020 Jun 11:1-13. Epub 2020 Jun 11.

Department of Psychology, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR, USA.

We examined associations between preschool children's cumulative risk exposure, dyadic interaction patterns, and self-control abilities in 238 mother-child dyads. Positive interactive synchrony, relationship ruptures, and latency to repair were micro-coded during a 3-5 minute joint challenge task. Children's self-control was assessed via two laboratory tasks and by parent report. Structural equation modeling and mediation analyses were utilized to examine the direct and indirect effects of cumulative risk on children's observed and parent-reported self-control abilities. Parent-child interactive processes of dyadic synchrony and latency to repair ruptures in synchrony were examined as mediators. Dyadic synchrony and latency to repair ruptures were found to mediate associations between cumulative risk exposure and children's behavioral and parent-reported self-control. Children exposed to more cumulative risk engaged in less dyadic synchrony and experienced longer latencies to repair ruptures with their caregiver, which in turn was associated with lower child self-control. Though cross-sectional, findings suggest dyadic synchrony and repair processes may represent viable mechanistic pathways linking cumulative risk exposure and deficits in child self-control. However, independent replications using longitudinal and experimental intervention designs are needed to determine causal pathways and inform new approaches for targeting the effects of early risk exposure through a focus on two-generational interventions.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0954579420000358DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7728658PMC
June 2020

Maternal Intimate Partner Violence Exposure and Autonomic Reactivity: Associations With Positive Parenting.

J Interpers Violence 2020 May 21:886260520922514. Epub 2020 May 21.

University of Southern California Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, Los Angeles, USA.

Intimate partner violence (IPV) can negatively impact parenting, posing a threat both to the wellbeing of mothers and their young children. Parenting may also be influenced by emotion regulation (ER), which can support parents' ability to navigate relational challenges or buffer against the influence of adverse experiences on parenting. Changes in maternal respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) during parent-child interactions have been conceptualized as a psychophysiological index of ER. Competing theoretical models posit that RSA response may mediate or moderate the relation between IPV and parenting or may be independently associated with parenting, however, there is little prior evidence concerning these hypothesized associations. This study examined these associations in a sample of 125 low-income maltreating and comparison mothers and their 3- to 5-year-old children. Dyads completed a moderately challenging laboratory task, and positive parenting and maternal RSA were measured during the task. Maternal verbal IPV exposure, but not physical IPV, was associated with less positive parenting, while greater maternal RSA activation over the task was associated with more positive parenting. Maternal RSA activation did not mediate or moderate the relationship between IPV exposure and parenting, and this association did not differ by whether or not the mother had perpetrated child maltreatment. Consequently, verbal IPV exposure and greater RSA activation independently predicted positive parenting. Results suggest that interventions for IPV-exposed mothers of young children may benefit from ensuring psychological safety and improving maternal ER to promote positive parenting for at-risk children.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0886260520922514DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7679287PMC
May 2020

Differential physiological sensitivity to child compliance behaviors in abusing, neglectful, and non-maltreating mothers.

Dev Psychopathol 2020 05;32(2):531-543

University of Oregon, Eugene, OR, USA.

We examined time-ordered associations between children's compliance behavior and maternal respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) in a sample of 127 child-maltreating (physical abuse, physical neglect, emotional abuse) and 94 non-maltreating mothers and their preschool-aged children. Child prosocial and aversive compliance behaviors and maternal RSA were continuously collected during a joint challenge task. Child behavior and mother RSA were longitudinally nested within-person and subjected to multilevel modeling (MLM), with between-person child maltreatment subtype and level of inconsistent parenting modeled as moderators. Both child maltreatment type and inconsistent parenting moderated the effects of child compliance on maternal RSA. Increases in children's prosocial compliance behaviors led to decreasing RSA in physically abusive mothers 30s later (i.e., increasing arousal), but predicted increases in non-maltreating mothers' RSA (i.e., increasing calm). Inconsistent parenting (vacillating between autonomy-support and strict control) also moderated the effects of children's compliance behavior on maternal physiology, weakening the effects of child prosocial compliance on subsequent maternal RSA. These findings highlight variations in mothers' physiological sensitivity to their children's prosocial behavior that may play a role in the development of coercive cycles, and underscore the need to consider individual differences in parents' physiological sensitivity to their children to effectively tailor interventions across the spectrum of risk.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0954579419000270DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7607912PMC
May 2020

The Role of Caregiver Psychopathology in the Treatment of Childhood Trauma with Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: A Systematic Review.

Clin Child Fam Psychol Rev 2019 09;22(3):273-289

Department of Psychology, 1227 University of Oregon, Eugene, OR, 97403, USA.

Trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (TF-CBT) is regarded as one of the most effective treatments for children who have experienced trauma and is rapidly being disseminated. To best ensure efficacy, even among treatment refractory symptoms, a better understanding of the factors that lead TF-CBT to be more or less effective for some children is warranted. One major factor that has not been systematically considered is the role of caregiver psychopathology. Therefore, this systematic review of 18 empirical studies examined how TF-CBT has incorporated caregiver psychopathology into the treatment of childhood trauma and how it is related to treatment outcomes. The results of this review provide preliminary support for TF-CBT decreasing caregiver psychopathology, in terms of symptoms of depression, PTSD, and emotional distress related to the child's experience of trauma, as well as partial support for caregiver depression, rather than caregiver PTSD or distress, influencing child treatment outcomes. It also illuminates the strong need for future TF-CBT studies to routinely measure caregiver psychopathology. Several recommendations are provided to ensure that the emerging research base can inform clinical practice guidelines on how to incorporate caregivers who exhibit psychopathology and potentially develop modifications to the existing treatment to address trauma and symptoms in both members of the caregiver-child dyad, when needed.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10567-019-00290-4DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8075046PMC
September 2019

The Interpersonal Neurobiology of Child Maltreatment: Parasympathetic Substrates of Interactive Repair in Maltreating and Nonmaltreating Mother-Child Dyads.

Child Maltreat 2019 11 23;24(4):353-363. Epub 2019 Jan 23.

University of Oregon, Eugene, OR, USA.

Children's repair of conflict with parents may be particularly challenging in maltreating families, and early, stressful parent-child interactions may contribute to children's altered neurobiological regulatory systems. To explore neurobiological signatures of repair processes, we examined whether mother and child individual and dyadic respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) covaried with interactive repair differently in maltreating versus nonmaltreating mother-preschooler dyads ( = 101), accounting for whether repair was mother or child initiated. Mother-initiated repair was equally frequent and protective across groups, associated with no change in mother or child RSA at higher levels of repair. But lower levels of mother repair were associated with child RSA withdrawal in nonmaltreating dyads versus child RSA augmentation in maltreating dyads. In maltreating dyads only, higher child-initiated repair was associated with higher mean mother RSA, whereas lower child repair was associated with mother RSA withdrawal. Findings suggest that interactive repair may have a buffering effect on neurobiological regulation but also that maltreating mothers and children show atypical neurobiological response to interpersonal challenges including differences related to children conducting the work of interactive repair that maltreating parents are less able to provide. We conclude by considering the role of maladaptive parent-child relationship processes in the biological embedding of early adversity.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1077559518824058DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7556358PMC
November 2019

Recollections of positive early caregiving relate to sympathetic nervous system activation and chronic inflammation in subsequent generations.

Dev Psychobiol 2019 03 21;61(2):261-274. Epub 2018 Dec 21.

Counseling Psychology, University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon.

To understand links between early experience and biomarkers of peripheral physiology in adulthood, this study examined associations between quality of early caregiving and markers of sympathetic activation and chronic inflammation in a sample of 52 low-income mothers and their preschool-aged children. Mothers reported on levels of positive caregiving experienced during childhood using the Structural Analysis of Social Behavior-Intrex. Mother and child sympathetic activation was indexed via pre-ejection period (PEP) at rest, during a dyadic social engagement task, and for children, while interacting with an unfamiliar adult. C-reactive protein (CRP) was collected using whole blood spots to assess levels of low-grade chronic inflammation. Results showed that mothers who reported experiencing more warm guidance and support for autonomy in early childhood displayed lower resting sympathetic nervous system activation (i.e., longer PEP) and lower chronic inflammation (i.e., CRP levels). Further, lower maternal chronic inflammation levels were associated with lower sympathetic activation (i.e., longer PEP) in their children at rest, and during social interactions with mother and a female stranger.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/dev.21815DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7607911PMC
March 2019

Stressful Life Events and Physical and Psychological Health: Mediating Effects of Differentiation of Self in a Spanish Sample.

J Marital Fam Ther 2019 Oct 21;45(4):578-591. Epub 2018 Sep 21.

Universidade dos Açores.

The pathways between differentiation of self and health remain only partly elucidated. This cross-cultural study sought to test Bowen's hypothesis about the associations between differentiation, stressful life events, and physical and psychological health, in a sample of 466 Spanish adults. Results show that people with higher levels of differentiation were less prone to physical ailments (e.g., heart disease, cancer, or blood disorders) and psychological symptoms (e.g., depression or anxiety). Further, differentiation mediated the association between stress (i.e., perceived negativity of stress in the past year and number of stressful events across the lifetime) and physical and psychological health. The current research provides cross-cultural empirical evidence for the links between differentiation and mind and body health in a Mediterranean culture.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/jmft.12358DOI Listing
October 2019

Effects of early adversity on neural mechanisms of distractor suppression are mediated by sympathetic nervous system activity in preschool-aged children.

Dev Psychol 2018 Sep;54(9):1674-1686

Department of Psychology, University of Oregon.

Multiple theoretical frameworks posit that interactions between the autonomic nervous system and higher-order neural networks are crucial for cognitive regulation. However, few studies have simultaneously examined autonomic physiology and brain activity during cognitive tasks. Such research is promising for understanding how early adversity impacts neurocognitive development in children, given that stress experienced early in life impacts both autonomic function and regulatory behaviors. We recorded event-related potentials (ERPs) as a neural measure of auditory selective attention, and cardiovascular measures of high-frequency heart rate variability (HF-HRV) and preejection period (PEP), in 105 3-5-year-old children with varying degrees of socioeconomic risk. First, we replicated a previous study from our lab: Increased socioeconomic risk was associated with larger ERP amplitudes elicited by distracting sounds. Next, we tested whether PEP and HF-HRV (at rest and during the task) were associated with the distractor ERP response, and found that a physiological profile marked by heightened sympathetic nervous system activity, indexed by shorter PEP, was associated with better ERP suppression of distractor sounds in lower SES children. Finally, we found that PEP mediated the relationship between socioeconomic risk and larger ERP responses to distractor sounds. In line with similar reports, these results suggest that for lower SES children, there is a potential biological cost of achieving better cognitive performance, seen here as increased cardiovascular arousal both at rest and in response to task demands. (PsycINFO Database Record
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/dev0000499DOI Listing
September 2018

Differentiation of Self and Dyadic Adjustment in Couple Relationships: A Dyadic Analysis Using the Actor-Partner Interdependence Model.

Fam Process 2019 09 10;58(3):698-715. Epub 2018 Jun 10.

Prevention Science Institute, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR.

Bowen's multigenerational theory provides an account of how the internalization of experiences within the family of origin promotes development of the ability to maintain a distinct self whilst also making intimate connections with others. Differentiated people can maintain their I-position in intimate relationships. They can remain calm in conflictual relationships, resolve relational problems effectively, and reach compromises. Fusion with others, emotional cut-off, and emotional reactivity instead are common reactions to relational stress in undifferentiated people. Emotional reactivity is the tendency to react to stressors with irrational and intense emotional arousal. Fusion with others is an excessive emotional involvement in significant relationships, whilst emotional cut-off is the tendency to manage relationship anxiety through physical and emotional distance. This study is based on Bowen's theory, starting from the assumption that dyadic adjustment can be affected both by a member's differentiation of self (actor effect) and by his or her partner's differentiation of self (partner effect). We used the Actor-Partner Interdependence Model to study the relationship between differentiation of self and dyadic adjustment in a convenience sample of 137 heterosexual Italian couples (nonindependent, dyadic data). The couples completed the Differentiation of Self Inventory and the Dyadic Adjustment Scale. Men's dyadic adjustment depended only on their personal I-position, whereas women's dyadic adjustment was affected by their personal I-position and emotional cut-off as well as by their partner's I-position and emotional cut-off. The empirical and clinical implications of the results are discussed.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/famp.12370DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8028039PMC
September 2019

Parasympathetic and sympathetic activity are associated with individual differences in neural indices of selective attention in adults.

Psychophysiology 2018 08 6;55(8):e13079. Epub 2018 Apr 6.

Department of Psychology, University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon, USA.

Multiple theoretical frameworks posit that interactions between the autonomic nervous system and higher-order neural networks are crucial for cognitive and emotion regulation. However, few studies have directly examined the relationship between measures of autonomic physiology and brain activity during cognitive tasks, and fewer studies have examined both the parasympathetic and sympathetic autonomic branches when doing so. Here, 93 adults completed an ERP auditory selective attention task concurrently with measures of parasympathetic activity (high-frequency heart rate variability; HF-HRV) and sympathetic activity (preejection period; PEP). We focus on the well-studied N1 ERP component to test for associations with baseline values of HF-HRV and PEP. Individuals with higher resting HF-HRV and shorter resting PEP showed larger effects of selective attention on their ERPs. Follow-up regression models demonstrated that HF-HRV and PEP accounted for unique variance in selective attention effects on N1 mean amplitude. These results are consistent with the neurovisceral integration model, such that greater parasympathetic activity is a marker of increased selective attention, as well as other theoretical models that emphasize the role of heightened sympathetic activity in more efficient attention-related processing. The present findings highlight the importance of autonomic physiology in the study of individual differences in neurocognitive function and, given the foundational role of selective attention across cognitive domains, suggest that both parasympathetic and sympathetic activity may be key to understanding variability in brain function across a variety of cognitive tasks.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/psyp.13079DOI Listing
August 2018

Cumulative risk exposure moderates the association between parasympathetic reactivity and inhibitory control in preschool-age children.

Dev Psychobiol 2018 04 18;60(3):324-332. Epub 2018 Jan 18.

Department of Counseling Psychology and Human Services, University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon.

A child's cumulative risk for early exposure to stress has been linked to alterations of self-regulation outcomes, including neurobiological correlates of inhibitory control (IC). We examined whether children's ability to engage the parasympathetic nervous system impacts how risk affects IC. Children ages 3-5 years completed two laboratory measures of IC while respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) was measured, indexing parasympathetic activity. Children with greater risk demonstrated lower IC; risk also moderated associations between RSA reactivity and IC. For children with less risk, greater RSA withdrawal during IC tasks was associated with better IC. In contrast, greater risk was associated with poor IC, regardless of RSA withdrawal. Effects of risk were more pronounced for cumulative than individual measures. Results suggest that cumulative risk exposure disrupts connectivity between physiological and behavioral components of self-regulation in early childhood. Parasympathetic withdrawal to cognitive tasks may be less relevant for performance in developmental samples experiencing greater life stress.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/dev.21608DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8064704PMC
April 2018

Mother-Child Coregulation of Parasympathetic Processes Differs by Child Maltreatment Severity and Subtype.

Child Maltreat 2018 08 11;23(3):211-220. Epub 2018 Jan 11.

2 University of Oregon, Eugene, OR, USA.

Parasympathetic processes appear to underlie maladaptive parent-child interactions in maltreating families, but it is unknown whether parent-child coregulation of respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) differs by child maltreatment severity and subtype. RSA coregulation in maltreating and nonmaltreating mother-child dyads ( N = 146; age 3-5 years) during two dyadic tasks was analyzed using dynamic time series modeling. Nonmaltreating dyads showed positive RSA concordance but maltreating dyads (when examined as one group) did not. However, when examined separately by subtype, physically abusive dyads showed positive concordance and neglectful dyads no concordance, in dyadic RSA. Patterns were further modified by maltreatment severity, which predicted discordant RSA (one partner's RSA predicting decreases in the other's) in both groups. Specifically, higher physical abuse severity predicted lower resting child RSA, declining mother RSA over time, and mother RSA predicting declines in child RSA over time, suggesting a mother-driven dyadic stress response. Higher neglect severity predicted increasing child RSA over time and child RSA predicting declines in mother RSA over time, suggesting a child-driven maternal stress response. These findings show there are distinct patterns of RSA coregulation in nonmaltreating, physically abusive, and neglectful mother-child dyads, which may inform etiology and intervention with respect to stress regulation in maltreating families.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1077559517751672DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6026580PMC
August 2018

Social-learning parenting intervention research in the era of translational neuroscience.

Curr Opin Psychol 2017 Jun 16;15:168-173. Epub 2017 Mar 16.

Prevention Science Institute, 6217 University of Oregon, Eugene, OR 97403, USA. Electronic address:

In the decades since social learning parenting interventions emerged, many evidence-based programs have been implemented at scale in community settings, and much research is now focusing on ways to maintain fidelity and impact during the implementation process. Notably, a considerable amount of theoretical confluence has occurred in parenting interventions from social learning, attachment, and other theoretical perspectives, with parent coaching as an example of this new generation of relational interventions. In addition, research examining the neurobiological effects of early adverse experiences is providing insight into key mediating and moderating mechanisms underlying the effectiveness of social learning parenting interventions, and new strategies for tailoring interventions to the needs of specific populations are being developed, making interventions more efficient, precise, and effective.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.copsyc.2017.02.017DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5559885PMC
June 2017

Intergenerational associations in executive function between mothers and children in the context of risk.

J Exp Child Psychol 2017 12 28;164:1-15. Epub 2017 Jul 28.

Prevention Science Institute, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR 97403, USA.

Executive functioning (EF) is critical for school readiness and other important life skills. Previous investigations have often neglected the important influence of parental EF skills in shaping their own children's EF. This study attempted to replicate recent empirical work that has shown that maternal EF is positively related to child EF. An ecological theoretical framework was used to examine the maternal EF-child EF link in family environments characterized by significant risk and socioeconomic adversity. Data from 38 mother-child dyads revealed that larger maternal working memory capacity was associated with greater child accuracy and slower reaction times on a child-friendly Go/No-Go task of response inhibition but not on an Emotional Go/No-Go task. This finding suggests that in contexts of risk and adversity, slower reaction times, instead of reflecting weaker EF skills, might reflect an adaptive skill-that is, exercising appropriate caution and careful responding on a challenging task. Results provide additional evidence of an intergenerational link between maternal EF and child EF and yield new insights into the nature of EF in adverse environments.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jecp.2017.07.002DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5591781PMC
December 2017

Resting sympathetic arousal moderates the association between parasympathetic reactivity and working memory performance in adults reporting high levels of life stress.

Psychophysiology 2017 Aug 27;54(8):1195-1208. Epub 2017 Apr 27.

Department of Psychology, University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon.

The neurovisceral integration model stipulates that autonomic function plays a critical role in the regulation of higher-order cognitive processes, yet most work to date has examined parasympathetic function in isolation from sympathetic function. Furthermore, the majority of work has been conducted on normative samples, which typically demonstrate parasympathetic withdrawal to increase arousal needed to complete cognitive tasks. Little is known about how autonomic regulation supports cognitive function in populations exposed to high levels of stress, which is critical given that chronic stress exposure alters autonomic function. To address this, we sought to characterize how parasympathetic (high-frequency heart rate variability, HF-HRV) and sympathetic (preejection period, PEP) measures of cardiac function contribute to individual differences in working memory (WM) capacity in a sample of high-risk women. HF-HRV and PEP were measured at rest and during a visual change detection measure of WM. Multilevel modeling was used to examine within-person fluctuations in WM performance throughout the task concurrently with HF-HRV and PEP, as well as between-person differences as a function of resting HF-HRV and PEP levels. Results indicate that resting PEP moderated the association between HF-HRV reactivity and WM capacity. Increases in WM capacity across the task were associated with increases in parasympathetic activity, but only among individuals with longer resting PEP (lower sympathetic arousal). Follow-up analyses showed that shorter resting PEP was associated with greater cumulative risk exposure. These results support the autonomic space framework, in that the relationship between behavior and parasympathetic function appears dependent on resting sympathetic activation.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/psyp.12872DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5749631PMC
August 2017

Harsh parenting, child behavior problems, and the dynamic coupling of parents' and children's positive behaviors.

J Fam Psychol 2017 Sep 23;31(6):689-698. Epub 2017 Mar 23.

Department of Computer Science and Engineering, Pennsylvania State University.

We examined self-reported maternal and paternal harsh parenting (HP) and its effect on the moment-to-moment dynamic coupling of maternal autonomy support and children's positive, autonomous behavior. This positive behavior coupling was measured via hidden Markov models as the likelihood of transitions into specific positive dyadic states in real time. We also examined whether positive behavior coupling, in turn, predicted later HP and child behavior problems. Children (N = 96; age = 3.5 years at Time 1) and mothers completed structured clean-up and puzzle tasks in the laboratory. Mothers' and fathers' HP was associated with children's being less likely to respond positively to maternal autonomy support; mothers' HP was also associated with mothers' being less likely to respond positively to children's autonomous behavior. When mothers responded to children's autonomous behavior with greater autonomy support, children showed fewer externalizing and internalizing problems over time and mothers showed less HP over time. These results were unique to the dynamic coupling of maternal autonomy support and children's autonomous behavior: The overall amount of these positive behaviors did not similarly predict reduced problems. Findings suggest that HP in the family system compromises the coregulation of positive behavior between mother and child and that improving mothers' and children's abilities to respond optimally to one another's autonomy-supportive behaviors may reduce HP and child behavior problems over time. (PsycINFO Database Record
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/fam0000310DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5608615PMC
September 2017

State of the science on prevention of elder abuse and lessons learned from child abuse and domestic violence prevention: Toward a conceptual framework for research.

J Elder Abuse Negl 2016 Aug-Dec;28(4-5):263-300. Epub 2016 Sep 27.

j Department of Human Development , Cornell University , Ithaca , New York , USA.

The goal of this review is to discuss the state of the science in elder abuse prevention. Findings from evidence-based programs to reduce elder abuse are discussed, drawing from findings and insights from evidence-based programs for child maltreatment and domestic/intimate partner violence. A conceptual measurement model for the study of elder abuse is presented and linked to possible measures of risk factors and outcomes. Advances in neuroscience in child maltreatment and novel measurement strategies for outcome assessment are presented.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/08946566.2016.1240053DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5793866PMC
April 2017

Intersections between cardiac physiology, emotion regulation and interpersonal warmth in preschoolers: Implications for drug abuse prevention from translational neuroscience.

Drug Alcohol Depend 2016 Jun;163 Suppl 1:S60-9

Department of Psychology & Prevention Science Institute, University of Oregon, United States.

Background: Early childhood is characterized by dramatic gains in emotion regulation skills that support social adjustment and mental health. Understanding the physiological substrates of healthy emotion regulation may offer new directions for altering trajectories toward initiation and escalation of substance abuse. Here, we describe the intersections between parasympathetic and sympathetic tone, emotion regulation and prosocial behavior in a high-risk sample of preschoolers.

Method: Fifty-two 3-6 year old children completed an assessment of attention regulation in response to affective stimuli. Cardiac respiratory sinus arrhythmia, an index of parasympathetic tone, and pre-ejection period, a marker of sympathetic activation, were recorded at rest and while children engaged in social interactions with their mothers and an unfamiliar research assistant. Mothers reported on children's emotional reactivity and prosocial behavior.

Results: Controlling for age and psychosocial risk, higher parasympathetic tone predicted better attention regulation in response to angry emotion and higher levels of prosocial behavior, whereas a reciprocal pattern of higher parasympathetic tone and lower sympathetic arousal predicted better attention in response to positive emotion and lower emotional reactivity. Children exposed to fewer risk factors and higher levels of maternal warmth were more able to sustain a high level of parasympathetic tone during interaction episodes.

Conclusions: Findings suggest that autonomic measures represent biomarkers for socio-emotional competence in young children. They also point to the importance of early experiences in the establishment of physiological regulation and the promise of family-based intervention to promote healthy emotion regulation and prevent substance dependence in high-risk populations.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2016.01.033DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4911543PMC
June 2016

Attachment status and mother-preschooler parasympathetic response to the strange situation procedure.

Biol Psychol 2016 Feb 29;114:39-48. Epub 2015 Dec 29.

Department of Counseling Psychology & Human Services, Prevention Science Institute, University of Oregon, United States.

Background: Early attachment relationships are important for children's development of behavioral and physiological regulation strategies. Parasympathetic nervous system activity, indexed by respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA), is a key indicator of self-regulation, with links to numerous developmental outcomes. Attachment-related changes in and associations between mother and child RSA during the Strange Situation procedure (SSP) can elucidate individual differences in physiological response to stress that are important for understanding the development of and intervention for psychopathology.

Methods: A sample of 142 at-risk mothers and preschool-age children participated in the SSP and provided time-synchronized RSA data during the 7 episodes, which included 2 separations and 2 reunions. Attachment classifications were obtained using the Cassidy et al. (1992) coding system. Linear mixed-effects models were constructed to examine attachment-related change in RSA during the SSP and the concordance between mother and child RSA over time.

Results: Findings demonstrated attachment-related differences in children's RSA. Secure children's RSA was relatively stable over time, whereas insecure-avoidant children showed RSA increases during the first separation and insecure-resistant children's RSA declined across the SSP. Mothers showed RSA withdrawal during separation regardless of child's attachment classification. Mother-child RSA showed a positive concordance that was strongest in the insecure-resistant group, compared with the other groups.

Conclusions: Results support attachment theories concerning parasympathetic response to stress and the role of the mother-child relationship in physiological regulation. Our findings advance previous research by focusing on at-risk mother-preschooler dyads within diverse attachment classifications.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsycho.2015.12.008DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4737994PMC
February 2016

Multigenerational links between mothers' experiences of autonomy in childhood and preschoolers' respiratory sinus arrhythmia: Variations by maltreatment status.

Dev Psychopathol 2015 Nov;27(4 Pt 2):1443-60

University of Oregon.

Despite burgeoning evidence linking early exposure to child maltreatment (CM) to deficits in self-regulation, the pathways to strong regulatory development in these children are not well understood, and significant heterogeneity is observed in their outcomes. Experiences of autonomy may play a key role in transmitting self-regulatory capacity across generations and help explain individual differences in maltreatment outcomes. In this study, we investigated multigenerational associations between Generation 1 (G1)-Generation 2 (G2) mothers' early experience of warmth and autonomy in relation to their own mothers and their Generation 3 (G3) children's autonomic physiological regulation in CM (n = 85) and non-CM (n = 128) families. We found that G2 mothers who recalled greater autonomy in their childhood relationship with their G1 mothers had preschool-age G3 children with higher respiratory sinus arrhythmia at baseline when alone while engaged in individual challenge tasks, during social exchanges with their mother in joint challenge tasks, and during the portions of the strange situation procedure when the mother was present. Although no clear mediators of this association emerged, multigenerational links among G1-G2 relations, maternal representations of her child, child behavior, and child respiratory sinus arrhythmia differed by maltreatment status, thus possibly representing important targets for future research and intervention.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0954579415000863DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5753801PMC
November 2015

Growth models of dyadic synchrony and mother-child vagal tone in the context of parenting at-risk.

Biol Psychol 2015 Feb 24;105:29-36. Epub 2014 Dec 24.

University of Oregon, United States.

We used multilevel modeling to examine dynamic changes in respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) and observer-coded interactive synchrony for mother-child dyads engaged in a laboratory interaction, to characterize parenting-at-risk. Seventy-nine preschooler-mother dyads including a subset with documented child maltreatment (CM; n=43) were observed completing a joint puzzle task while physiological measures were recorded. Dyads led by CM mothers showed decreases in positive synchrony over time, whereas no variation was observed in non-CM dyads. Growth models of maternal RSA indicated that mothers who maintained high levels of positive interactive synchrony with their child evidenced greater RSA reactivity, characterized by an initial withdrawal followed by augmentation as the task progressed, after accounting for CM group status. These results help to clarify patterns of RSA responding in the context of caregiver-child interactions, and demonstrate the importance of modeling dynamic changes in physiology over time in order to better understanding biological correlates of parenting-at-risk.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsycho.2014.12.009DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4336820PMC
February 2015

Cardiac Vagal Tone and Quality of Parenting Show Concurrent and Time-Ordered Associations That Diverge in Abusive, Neglectful, and Non-Maltreating Mothers.

Couple Family Psychol 2013 Jun;2(2):95-115

University of Oregon.

Concurrent and lagged maternal respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) was monitored in the context of parenting. One hundred and forty-one preschooler-mother dyads-involved with child welfare as documented perpetrators of child abuse or neglect, or non-maltreating (non-CM)-were observed completing a resting baseline and joint challenge task. Parenting behaviors were coded using SASB (Benjamin, 1996) and maternal RSA was simultaneously monitored, longitudinally-nested within-person (WP), and subjected to MLM. Abusive and neglectful mothers displayed less positive parenting and more strict/hostile control, relative to non-CM mothers. Non-CM mothers displayed greater WP heterogeneity in variance over time in their RSA scores, and greater consistency over time in their parenting behaviors, relative to abusive or neglectful mothers. CM group also moderated concurrent and lagged WP associations in RSA and positive parenting. When abusive mothers displayed lower RSA in a given epoch, relative to their task average, they showed concurrent increases in positive parenting, and higher subsequent levels of hostile control in the following epoch, suggesting that it is physiologically taxing for abusive mothers to parent in positive ways. In contrast, lagged effects for non-CM mothers were observed in which RSA decreases led to subsequent WP increases in positive parenting and decreases in control. Reversed models were significant only for neglectful mothers: Increases in positive parenting led to subsequent increases in RSA levels, and increases in strict, hostile control led to subsequent RSA decreases. These results provide new evidence that concurrent and time-ordered coupling in maternal physiology and behavior during parenting vary in theoretically meaningful ways across CM and non-CM mothers. Implications for intervention and study limitations are discussed.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/cfp0000005DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3980485PMC
June 2013

Heterogeneity in Maltreated and Non-maltreated Preschool Children's Inhibitory Control: The Interplay Between Parenting Quality and Child Temperament.

Infant Child Dev 2013 Sep;22(5):501-522

The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, USA.

This study examined the contribution of child temperament, parenting, and their interaction on inhibitory control development in a sample of maltreated and non-maltreated preschool children. One hundred and eighteen mother-child dyads were drawn from predominantly low-income, rural communities. Dyads participated in a laboratory session in which maternal warm autonomy support, warm guidance, and strict/hostile control were observationally coded during a joint teaching task. Independent assessments of children's inhibitory control were obtained, and observers rated children's temperament. After relevant covariates, including income, maternal education, and child age and IQ were controlled for, there were no differences between the maltreatment and non-maltreatment groups in either children's inhibitory control or mothers' behaviours in the laboratory session. Even after much of the variance in children's inhibitory control was accounted for from the covariates, children's temperamental negativity moderated the effects of warm autonomy support on inhibitory control in both maltreatment and non-maltreatment groups. Temperamentally negative children whose mothers displayed more warm autonomy support showed greater inhibitory control, at levels on par with low-negative children. Findings suggest that heterogeneity in children's self-regulation may be due in part to individual differences in sensitivity to caregiver support for children's independence, even among those exposed to maltreatment.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/icd.1801DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3980498PMC
September 2013

Early adversity, RSA, and inhibitory control: evidence of children's neurobiological sensitivity to social context.

Dev Psychobiol 2014 Jul 19;56(5):964-78. Epub 2013 Oct 19.

Department of Counseling Psychology & Human Services & the Child & Family Center, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR.

This study examined parasympathetic physiology as a moderator of the effects of early adversity (i.e., child abuse and neglect) on children's inhibitory control. Children's respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) was assessed during a resting baseline, two joint challenge tasks with mother, and an individual frustration task. RSA assessed during each of the joint parent-child challenge tasks moderated the effects of child maltreatment (CM) status on children's independently-assessed inhibitory control. No moderation effect was found for RSA assessed at baseline or in the child-alone challenge task. Among CM-exposed children, lower RSA levels during the joint task predicted the lowest inhibitory control, whereas higher joint task RSA was linked to higher inhibitory control scores that were indistinguishable from those of non-CM children. Results are discussed with regard to the importance of considering context specificity (i.e., individual and caregiver contexts) in how biomarkers inform our understanding of individual differences in vulnerability among at-risk children.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/dev.21175DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3992193PMC
July 2014

Dyadic concordance in mother and preschooler resting cardiovascular function varies by risk status.

Dev Psychobiol 2014 Jan 11;56(1):142-52. Epub 2013 Sep 11.

Centre for Research on Occupational and Life Stress, National University of Ireland, University Rd., Galway, Ireland.

This study examined concordance in heart rate (HR) and respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) in a sample of 104 child-maltreating (CM) and nonCM mother-preschooler dyads (208 individuals). In a laboratory setting, mother and child cardiac physiology was simultaneously monitored via ECG in a 5-min resting period. Mothers ranged in age from 20 to 49 years; children ranged in age from 3 to 5 years. Significant within-dyad (WD) and between-dyad (BD) associations were observed for mother HR and both child HR and RSA, and the associations were moderated by CM status. Only CM dyads exhibited BD associations: Higher average maternal HR was associated with higher child HR and lower child RSA. By contrast, when the time interval was divided into 30 s epochs, nonCM dyads exhibited positive WD (dynamic) associations in mother and child HR, and both CM and nonCM dyads showed negative WD associations in mother HR and child RSA. Further, mothers' mean HR levels moderated the extent of epoch-by-epoch WD concordance observed in mother and child, such that elevated average maternal HR was associated with lower levels of WD (dynamic) concordance. No BD or WD concordance in maternal and child RSA was observed. The findings suggest that measures of intraindividual variation provide useful, alternate perspectives in the study of dyadic processes in at-risk families.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/dev.21098DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3963270PMC
January 2014

Mapping cardiac physiology and parenting processes in maltreating mother-child dyads.

J Fam Psychol 2011 Oct;25(5):663-74

Child Study Center, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16801, USA.

Child maltreatment (CM) lies on an extreme end of the continuum of parenting-at-risk, and while CM has been linked with a variety of behavioral indicators of dysregulation in children, less is known about how physiological markers of regulatory capacity contribute to this association. The present study examined patterns of mother and child physiological regulation and their relations with observed differences in parenting processes during a structured interaction. Abusing, neglecting, and non-CM mothers and their 3- to 5-year-old children completed a resting baseline and moderately challenging joint task. The structural analysis of social behavior was used to code mother-child interactions while simultaneous measures of respiratory sinus arrhythmia were obtained. Results indicated that physically abusive mothers were more likely to react to children's positive bids for autonomy with strict and hostile control, than either neglecting or non-CM mothers. CM exposure and quality of maternal responding to children's autonomous bids were uniquely associated with lower parasympathetic tone in children. Results provide evidence of neurodevelopmental associations between early CM exposure, the immediate interactive context of parenting, and children's autonomic physiology.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0024528DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3582338PMC
October 2011

Preschool children's cardiac reactivity moderates relations between exposure to family violence and emotional adjustment.

Child Maltreat 2011 Aug 17;16(3):205-15. Epub 2011 May 17.

Child Study Center, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, USA.

This study examined relations between cardiac reactivity, family violence exposure (i.e., child maltreatment [CM] and inter-partner violence [IPV]), and preschool children's emotional adjustment. A sample of 92 mother-preschooler dyads was drawn from predominantly low-income, rural communities. Dyads participated in a laboratory session in which children's Electrocardiograph (ECG) monitoring occurred during a resting baseline, joint-challenge, and individual emotional and cognitive tasks. Mothers consented to review of Children & Youth Services (CYS) records for CM and completed an IPV measure. Mothers rated children's emotional adjustment, and observers rated children on their frustration and positive affect. Children's vagal suppression was shown to moderate relations between family violence exposure and emotional adjustment. Findings indicated that children greater in vagal suppression showed better emotional adjustment when from families low in violence. However, regardless of children's level of vagal suppression, all children showed poorer emotional adjustment when from families high in violence.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1077559511408887DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3582334PMC
August 2011

Differentiation, self-other representations, and rupture-repair processes: predicting child maltreatment-risk.

J Couns Psychol 2010 Jul;57(3):304-316

Department of Psychology, Pennsylvania State University.

This set of studies was designed to examine the relational underpinnings of child abuse potential in a sample of 51 urban families. In Study 1, lower maternal differentiation of self-most notably, greater emotional reactivity and greater emotional cutoff-along with self-attacking introjects, together distinguished mothers at higher risk (vs. lower risk) for child maltreatment (CM). In Study 2, patterns of interactive rupture and repair were examined in a subsample of n = 15 families and found to vary as a function of risk for CM. Specifically, SASB coding (Benjamin, 1996, 2003) of mother-children interactions during two moderately stressful lab tasks revealed higher rates of interactive mismatch and mother-initiated ruptures, and fewer successful repairs in families at higher-risk-for-CM, relative to families at lower-risk. Implications for counseling and directions for further translational research are discussed.
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http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2923821PMC
http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0020030DOI Listing
July 2010