Dynamic changes in parent affect and adolescent cardiac vagal regulation: A real-time analysis

Lixian Cui, Amanda Sheffield Morris, Amanda W. Harrist, Robert E. Larzelere, Michael M. Criss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


The current study explored the role of parents' negative and positive affect in adolescent respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) reactivity during a parent-adolescent conflict discussion task and the moderating effects of adolescent sex and age. Questionnaire data were collected from 206 adolescents (10-18 years of age; M = 13.37 years) and their primary caregivers (83.3% biological mothers). Electrocardiogram and respiration data were collected from adolescents, and RSA variables were computed. Parent affect was coded during the conflict discussion task. Multilevel modeling was used to distinguish the betweenand within-individual effects of parent affect on adolescent RSA. Results indicated that observed within-parent-teen dyad anger was negatively associated with adolescent RSA, controlling for previousminute RSA level, particularly among adolescents 13 years and older. In addition, observed betweendyad positive affect was positively linked to RSA for both boys and girls when previous-minute RSA level was controlled. Within-dyad positive affect was positively related to girl's RSA only. These findings suggest that expressions of positive affect may be related to better vagal regulation (RSA increases), whereas expressions of anger may be related to poor vagal regulation (RSA decreases) during social engagement.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)180-190
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Family Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2015


  • Adolescence
  • Affect dynamic
  • Multilevel modeling
  • Parent affect
  • Respiratory sinus arrhythmia


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