Correlates of Parent-Child Physiological Synchrony and Emotional Parenting: Differential Associations in Varying Interactive Contexts

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© 2019, The Author(s). Objectives: Parent-child synchrony during interaction might possess important features that underlie parenting processes throughout development. However, little is known regarding the association between parent-child physiological synchrony and emotional parenting behaviors during middle childhood. The main goal of the study was to examine whether emotional parenting was positively or negatively associated with parent-child physiological synchrony for school-age children. Methods: Adopting a biopsychosocial perspective, we incorporated the interbeat interval (IBI) and behavioral observation data of 150 parent-child dyads (child M age = 8.77, SD= 1.80) to explore the patterns of moment-to-moment dyadic physiological synchrony and to investigate whether these patterns were associated with two emotional parenting behaviors (psychological control and psychological unavailability). Results: Our findings provided some initial evidence that in low to moderately stressful situations that mimic daily parent-child interaction, parent-child physiological synchrony was indicative of different emotional parenting behaviors in various parent-child interactive situations. Specifically, in the collaborative context (parent-child working together to complete a task), parent-child physiological synchrony was indicative of less psychological unavailability, whereas in the competitive context (parent-child resolving disagreement with each other), parent-child physiological synchrony was indicative of less psychological control. The study implications and future research directions are discussed. Conclusions: Overall, our findings suggested that dyadic physiological synchrony, indexed by parent-child moment-to-moment matching of IBI, was associated with fewer negative emotional parenting behaviors.





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Han, ZR, MM Gao, J Yan, X Hu, W Zhou and X Li (2019). Correlates of Parent-Child Physiological Synchrony and Emotional Parenting: Differential Associations in Varying Interactive Contexts. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 28(4). pp. 1116–1123. 10.1007/s10826-019-01337-4 Retrieved from

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Wen Zhou

Assistant Professor of Evolutionary Anthropology at Duke Kunshan University

Wen Zhou is an assistant professor of Evolutionary Anthropology. She holds a secondary appointment with the department of Evolutionary Anthropology at Duke university. Professor Zhou aims to understand what it means to be a human and the moral status a human is believed to deserve. Her current projects focus on dehumanization and its developmental origins. Her work also involves research on social hierarchy, human-animal relations and conservation, deploying an interdisciplinary approach drawn from social and developmental psychology. She joined the faculty of Duke Kunshan University in 2022 after obtaining her Ph.D. in Evolutionary Anthropology from Duke University. 

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