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The Relation of Maternal Parity, Respiratory Sinus Arrhythmia, and Overprotective Behaviors with Child Anxiety

Abstract

This study examined maternal characteristics that relate to child anxiety risk in a nonclinical sample. Parity and maternal respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) were examined in relation to maternal overprotective parenting behavior, and then to child anxiety risk. Mothers (n = 151) and their 24-month-old children participated in a laboratory visit in which mothers completed questionnaires about their parenting demographics (i.e., parity), their overprotective parenting behavior, and child anxiety risk. Mothers’ RSA was measured during a 5-min. baseline period. Maternal overprotection was observed during a puppet show episode. Moderated mediation analyses revealed that first-time motherhood indirectly related to increased anxiety risk through greater overprotective parenting when mothers also had high RSA. Results suggest high baseline maternal psychophysiology indicative of regulation serves as a context by which parity relates to maternal overprotection. Engaging in overprotection may require higher, rather than lower, regulatory capabilities. First-time mothers may benefit from psychoeducation around the way in which their parasympathetic regulation relates to their parenting behaviors and contributes to increased child anxiety proneness.

Highlights

  • First-time mothers reported more overprotection when they had high baseline RSA.

  • Parity related to child anxiety in a moderated mediation model.

  • Engaging in overprotective behavior may require more regulatory capabilities.

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Funding

This study was funded by National Institute for Child Health and Human Development (R15 HD076158).

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All authors contributed to the study conception and design. Material preparation, data collection and analysis were performed by all authors. The first draft of the manuscript was written by the first author, and all authors commented on previous versions of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript and resubmission.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Sydney M. Risley.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Approval was obtained from the ethics committee of Miami University (protocols #0432r and #01026r). The procedures used in this study adhere to Human Subject guidelines.

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Risley, S.M., Jones, L.B., Kalomiris, A.E. et al. The Relation of Maternal Parity, Respiratory Sinus Arrhythmia, and Overprotective Behaviors with Child Anxiety. J Child Fam Stud 30, 2392–2401 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-021-02032-z

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Keywords

  • Parity
  • Autonomic nervous system
  • RSA
  • Parenting behaviors
  • Child anxiety