Respiratory sinus arrhythmia moderates the relation between parent-adolescent relationship quality and adolescents' social adjustment

J. van der Graaff, W.H.J. Meeus, M. de Wied, A. van Boxtel, P.A.C. van Lier, S.T.J. Branje

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Abstract

This 2-wave longitudinal study aimed (1) to investigate whether high resting RSA predicted adolescents’ lower externalizing behavior and higher empathic concern, and (2) to address the potential moderating role of resting RSA in the association between parent-adolescent relationship quality and adolescents’ externalizing behavior and empathic concern. In a sample of 379 adolescents (212 boys, 167 girls), resting RSA was assessed during a laboratory session, and adolescents reported on parental support, negative interaction with parents, empathic concern and externalizing behavior during a home visit. We found no support for high resting RSA predicting low externalizing behavior or high empathic concern. However, in line with our hypotheses, we did find several instances of RSA functioning as a moderator, although the interaction patterns varied. First, negative interaction with parents was a negative predictor of externalizing behavior for girls low in resting RSA, whereas the association was non-significant for girls with high RSA. Second, higher negative interaction with parents predicted lower empathic concern for boys high in resting RSA, whereas the association was reversed for boys with low resting RSA. Third, parental support was a positive predictor of empathic concern for girls high in resting RSA, whereas the association was non-significant for girls low in resting RSA. The findings suggest that adolescents with different levels of resting RSA respond differentially to relationship quality with parents.
Keywords
Resting RSA, Empathy, Externalizing behavior, Parenting, Adolescence
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)269-281
JournalJournal of Abnormal Child Psychology
Volume44
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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