Dyadic flexibility mediates the relation between parent conflict and infant vagal regulation

Open Access
Author:
Busuito, Alex
Graduate Program:
Psychology
Degree:
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
November 16, 2015
Committee Members:
  • Ginger A Moore, Thesis Advisor
Keywords:
  • Parent conflict
  • infant vagal regulation
  • dyadic regulation
Abstract:
Parent conflict is associated with behavior problems and atypical physiological regulation during childhood. Recent research has found that parent conflict is also related to atypical physiological regulation in infants, suggesting that potential effects of parent conflict on immature regulatory systems during infancy may explain childhood outcomes. Because infants rely on their caregivers for external regulation during the first year of life, one way conflict could affect infant regulation is through effects on parent-infant dyadic regulation. In a sample of 6-month-old infants and their mothers (N = 52), this study investigated dyadic flexibility, a novel measure of dyadic regulation, as a mediator of the relation between parent conflict and infant vagal regulation during a mild social stressor (the Face-to-Face Still Face). Dyads with mothers reporting higher conflict were less flexible in the reunion episode of the FFSF, and infants of these dyads exhibited less vagal reactivity in the reunion episode, suggesting less effective recovery and greater need to engage in physiological self-regulation. A test of mediation found that conflict was related to infant vagal reactivity through an indirect effect on dyadic flexibility during the reunion episode. Flexibility may uniquely illustrate the process of dyadic regulation and may be one mechanism by which conflict is related to infant self-regulation.