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Title:Dispositional empathy and physiological reactivity: joint contributions to maternal sensitivity with toddler-aged children
Author(s):Emery, Helen
Advisor(s):McElwain, Nancy L.
Department / Program:Human & Community Development
Discipline:Human & Community Development
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Maternal sensitivity
sensitive parenting toddler-aged children
Dispositional empathy
parental empathy
skin conductance reactivity
physiological reactivity to infant cues
reactivity to infant cues
Abstract:The present study investigated maternal dispositional empathy and skin conductance level (SCL) reactivity in response to infant emotional cues as joint predictors of maternal sensitive behavior with their toddler-aged children. Sixty-four mother-toddler dyads (31 boys) were observed during a series of interaction tasks during a laboratory visit, and maternal sensitivity was assessed from approximately 55 minutes of observation per family. Maternal SCL reactivity to infant cues using a cry-laugh audio paradigm (Groh & Roisman, 2009) was assessed in a second mother-only laboratory visit. Mothers reported on their dispositional empathy via a questionnaire. Greater dispositional empathy was related to greater sensitivity at low, but not high, levels of SCL reactivity. Parallel analyses examining self-reported negative emotion during the cry-laugh paradigm as the moderator further supported the finding that dispositional empathy emerged as a significant predictor of sensitivity when mothers’ experienced low, rather than high, reactivity. Results are discussed in terms of specificity to type of sensitivity (distress and non-distress) and by reactivity measure.
Issue Date:2013-02-03
Rights Information:Copyright 2012 Helen Emery
Date Available in IDEALS:2013-02-03
Date Deposited:2012-12

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