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Key Findings

Parasympathetic substrates of interactive repair differ in maltreating and nonmaltreating dyads

When mothers repair more negative moments in mother-child interaction, it is protective for children's stress physiology, regardless of maltreatment status.  However, when mothers perform fewer of these repairs, non-maltreated children show the expected physiological arousal indicating a response to challenge, whereas maltreated children show physiological patterns that indicates disengagement (Lunkenheimer, Busuito, Brown, Panlilio, & Skowron, 2019). 

Preschoolers' task persistence profiles relate to later teacher-rated attention problems

More preschoolers engage in high task persistence with mothers than with fathers. Group-based trajectory modeling revealed that preschoolers whose task persistence with mothers starts low, and either increases or stays stable over the course of a challenging task, have the highest teacher-rated attention problems in kindergarten. Task persistence profiles with fathers, alternatively, do not appear to relate to later attention problems (Lunkenheimer, Panlilio, Lobo, Olson, & Hamby, 2019).  

Mother-child coregulation of parasympathetic processes differs by maltreatment severity and subtype

Non-maltreating dyads display positive concordance of respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA), whereas dyads with maltreating mothers do not. Closer examination of the maltreating group reveals differences in concordance by subtype: physically abusive dyads display positive concordance of RSA, and neglecting dyads display no concordance. For dyads of both subtypes, severity of maltreatment predicts discordant RSA (one partner’s RSA predicts decreases in the other’s; Lunkenheimer, Busuito, Brown, & Skowron, 2018). 

Dynamic coupling of mothers' and children's positive behaviors predicts decreases in problem behaviors over time

Self-reported harsh parenting relates to children's lower likelihood of responding positively to maternal autonomy support in a challenging task. Children whose mothers respond to their autonomous behavior with further autonomy support exhibit fewer internalizing and externalizing problems over time; this pattern also relates to decreases in mothers' harsh parenting. These effects appear unique to the dynamic coupling of autonomy-promotive behaviors (Lunkenheimer, Ram, Skowron, & Yin, 2017). 

Mother-child joint persistence supports child mastery motivation

When mothers and children show greater joint persistence at a challenging task, it predicts children’s higher levels of mastery motivation in preschool.  Children who persist at an impossible task, even after failing, show higher levels of concurrent self-regulation and higher levels of mastery motivation in preschool (Lunkenheimer & Wang, 2017).