The current study drew on prospective, longitudinal data in order to investigate the long-term significance of early parent-child relationship experiences for adults' physiological responses in romantic relationships. Autonomic nervous system activity was recorded for 37 adults (ages 34-37 years) during a baseline task and while they were discussing a relationship conflict with their romantic partners. Results indicated that (a) observed maternal emotional support during childhood and early adolescence predicted lower skin conductance reactivity, a sign of inhibition and anxiety, and (b) maternal emotional support and infant attachment security predicted lower heart rate reactivity, a psychophysiological marker of behavioral approach, during romantic relationship interactions. Moreover, the predictive effects of early parent-child relationship experiences were not accounted by covariates related to child characteristic and early socioeconomic factors or indicators of adults' concurrent relationship quality. Results of more exploratory analyses regarding the role of adult attachment states of mind in mediating the predictive effects of early parent-child relationship experiences for adults' physiological responses were inconclusive. Altogether, the results of the current study indicate that interpersonal experiences with parents during childhood and adolescence assist in organizing adults' physiological responses during close relationship contexts. Findings are discussed with respect to our understanding of the long-term predictive effects of early interpersonal experiences for social and emotional development across the life-course.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. May 2014. Major: Child Psychology. Advisors: Andrew Collins, Glenn Roisman. 1 computer file (PDF); vi, 57 pages.
Early Interpersonal Antecedents of Physiological Reactivity in Adult Romantic Relationships.
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