Publication Date

Summer 2016

Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Diane Lickenbrock (Director), Amy Brausch, and Elizabeth Lemerise

Degree Program

Department of Psychological Sciences

Degree Type

Master of Science


The development of emotion regulation skills is an imperative task early in development. Respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA), a physiological proxy of regulation, is indicative of one’s regulatory capacity and can be predictive of behavior in later life (Graham, Ablow, & Measelle, 2010; Moore, 2010). Children begin regulating their emotions at a physiological level early in infancy. Infants who are able to properly suppress RSA have higher quality social interactions in childhood (Graziano, Keane, & Calkins, 2007). Previous work has suggested that parents play a role in predicting infant RSA (Conradt & Ablow, 2010). For example, parent marital satisfaction is known to impact infants’ physiological regulation, such that infants whose parents are less satisfied with their marriages have a decreased ability to regulate physiologically (Moore et al., 2009; Porter, Wouden-Miller, Silva, & Porter, 2003). Previous research has found that parent personality impacts parenting strategies (Cummings & Davies, 1994; Prinzie, Stams, Deković, Reijntjes, & Belsky, 2009), however work examining how parent personality interacts with marital satisfaction to predict infant RSA is lacking. Moreover, the majority of previous work assessing the parent predictors of infant RSA focused on mothers (e.g., Moore et al., 2009). There are known differences in the way mothers and fathers interact with their infants, as well as differences in the way fathers and mothers respond to marital dissatisfaction (Forbes, Cohn, Allen, & Lewinsohn, 2004; Karney & Bradbury, 1995). The present study focused on examining how marital satisfaction and parent personality predicts infant RSA with mothers and fathers. The current study involved 38 families (6-month old infants, mothers, and fathers). Parents completed questionnaires measuring marital satisfaction and personality. Mother-infant and fatherinfant dyads participated in a baseline and face-to-face play task (Still Face Paradigm; Tronick, Als, Adamson, Wise, & Brazelton, 1978), where infant physiological regulation was assessed. Results involving mothers did not yield significant findings predicting infant physiological regulation. For fathers, results indicated that parent personality and parent marital satisfaction predicted infant physiological regulation. The current study highlights the importance of examining the roles of both mothers and fathers predicting infant physiological regulation.


Personality and Social Contexts | Psychology | Social Psychology