Children’s repair of conflict with parents may be particularly challenging in maltreating families, and early, stressful parent–child interactions may contribute to children’s altered neurobiological regulatory systems. To explore neurobiological signatures of repair processes, we examined whether mother and child individual and dyadic respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) covaried with interactive repair differently in maltreating versus nonmaltreating mother–preschooler dyads (N = 101), accounting for whether repair was mother or child initiated. Mother-initiated repair was equally frequent and protective across groups, associated with no change in mother or child RSA at higher levels of repair. But lower levels of mother repair were associated with child RSA withdrawal in nonmaltreating dyads versus child RSA augmentation in maltreating dyads. In maltreating dyads only, higher child-initiated repair was associated with higher mean mother RSA, whereas lower child repair was associated with mother RSA withdrawal. Findings suggest that interactive repair may have a buffering effect on neurobiological regulation but also that maltreating mothers and children show atypical neurobiological response to interpersonal challenges including differences related to children conducting the work of interactive repair that maltreating parents are less able to provide. We conclude by considering the role of maladaptive parent–child relationship processes in the biological embedding of early adversity.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
- Developmental and Educational Psychology