Maternal expressions of positive emotion for children predicts children’s respiratory sinus arrhythmia surrounding stress

Desiree Delgadillo, Sameen Boparai, Sarah D. Pressman, Alison Goldstein, Jean-François Bureau, Sabrina Schmiedel, Mumtaz Backer, Birit Broekman, Kok Hian Tan, Yap-Seng Chong, Helen Chen, Alyson K. Zalta, Michael J. Meaney, Anne Rifkin-Graboi, Stella Tsotsi, Jessica L. Borelli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The aim of this study is to assess whether positive emotional exchanges (i.e., emotion coregulation) within the mother–child dyad play a protective role in children's physiological response to a distressing task. Specifically, we test whether positive emotion coregulation among mothers and their preschool-aged children is associated with children's respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) at baseline, during, and following a frustration task. One hundred Singaporean mother–child dyads (Mchildage = 3.5 years) participated in a standardized “Laughing Task” in which positive emotional constructs were measured. Children also participated in a frustration task while RSA was continuously monitored. Hierarchical linear regressions revealed that greater maternal positive emotional responses to children were associated with child RSA at baseline and in recovery from frustration, but not during frustration. These findings have implications for the important role that positive emotion responsivity from mothers may play in children's developing autonomic response systems, and underscore the need for longitudinal work on this topic.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1225-1240
Number of pages16
JournalDevelopmental Psychobiology
Issue number5
Early online date2021
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021


  • emotions
  • parenting
  • parent–child relations
  • physiological stress reactivity
  • preschool children
  • psychophysiology
  • respiratory sinus arrhythmia

Cite this