Date of Award

Summer 8-2015

Degree Type


Degree Name


Degree Program

Applied Developmental Psychology



Major Professor

Weems, Carl

Second Advisor

Frick, Paul

Third Advisor

Marsee, Monica

Fourth Advisor

Beaton, Elliott

Fifth Advisor

Scott, Brandon


Research indicates that learning how to regulate one’s emotions is critical to successful child development and is associated with adaptive social functioning and psychological adjustment (Dunn & Brown, 1994; Eisenberg, Fabes, Guthrie, & Reiser, 2000; Eisenberg, Fabes, & Murphy, 1996). Children’s emotion regulation abilities are thought to be influenced by both child (e.g., age, temperament) and parent characteristics (e.g., parenting behaviors, parental regulation; Eisenberg, Cumberland, & Spinrad, 1998). Resting heart rate variability (HRV) has emerged as a potentially important biomarker associated with emotion regulation (Porges, 2007; Thayer & Lane, 2000); however, there are still significant gaps in research. In particular, research indicates genetic correlates associated with HRV as well as an important role of parents in children’s emotion socialization, but research has yet to establish a strong link between parent and child HRV. Theoretically, parent and child HRV may be linked but only in specific contexts. For example, parent and child resting HRV may become more or less strongly related in the context of specific parenting behaviors, but research has yet to test this hypothesis. The present study examined the association between parenting behaviors and child resting HF-HRV (i.e., high frequency HRV), the links between parent and child resting HF-HRV, and potential moderating effects of parenting behaviors on the association in youth. Additional analyses examined associations between parent and child vagal regulation.

Ninety-seven youth (11-17 years) and their caregivers (n = 81) participated in a physiological assessment and completed questionnaires assessing parenting behaviors. Results indicated that parent’s inconsistent discipline and corporal punishment were negatively associated with their child’s resting HF-HRV while positive parenting and parental involvement were positively associated. Furthermore, parent’s inconsistent discipline and parent’s involvement moderated the relationship between parent and child resting HF-HRV, such that in the context of high inconsistent discipline and high parental involvement, high parent resting HF-HRV was associated with low child resting HF-HRV. Findings add to the literature by providing evidence for the role of parenting behaviors in shaping the development of children’s HF-HRV and indicating that inconsistent discipline and parental involvement may affect the entrainment of HF-HRV in parents and their adolescent children.


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