The early experience of social and emotional neglect, such as that seen in institutions for the care of orphaned or abandoned children, is associated with altered neurobiological functioning and elevated risk for externalizing behavior problems; however, many post-institutionalized children appear resilient to these effects. This resiliency calls into question how post-adoption parenting practices may contribute to the heterogeneous outcomes seen in these children. This study examined the moderating role of current parent emotion socialization practices on the relation between early caregiving and indices of children's autonomic nervous system functioning at baseline and in response to ecologically valid challenges. Etiological factors, behavioral, and physiological correlates for externalizing behavior were also examined. The sample consisted of 8 to 9-year-olds, and compared post-institutionalized (PI) internationally-adopted children with children internationally-adopted from foster care (PFC) and children raised by their biological families (NA). Parents self-reported on their encouragement of emotional expression and distress reactions to children's negative emotions. Externalizing behavior was measured by parent report. Children's basal level of respiratory-sinus arrhythmia (RSA) and non-specific skin conductance response (NS.SCR) were measured as well as reactivity to challenge. Results indicated that under conditions of high parental distress, PI children displayed a unique autonomic pattern characterized by high basal RSA, and less RSA withdrawal and greater NS.SCR reactivity within interpersonal contexts involving their parent. High parental distress was associated with lower basal RSA for the PFC group. The PI group evidenced elevated externalizing behaviors compared to comparison groups. Greater externalizing behaviors were seen for those PI children who displayed high basal RSA and NS.SCR augmentation to challenge in the context of high parental distress. Results suggest that post-adoption parenting practices, in conjunction with the child's physiology, contribute to the emergence of externalizing problems in PI children.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. May 2014. Major: Child Psychology. Advisors: Bonnie Klimes-Dougan, Megan R. Gunnar. 1 computer file (PDF); vii, 143 pages.
Herrera, Adriana Marie.
Externalizing behavior in post-institutionalized children: an examination of parent emotion socialization practices, respiratory-sinus arrhythmia, and skin conductance.
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