Getting to the Heart of Emotion Regulation in Youth: The Role of Interoceptive Sensitivity, Heart Rate Variability, and Parental Psychopathology
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Emotion regulation and associated autonomic activation develop throughout childhood and adolescence under the influence of the family environment. Specifically, physiological indicators of autonomic nervous system activity such as interoceptive sensitivity and vagally mediated heart rate variability (HRV) can inform on emotion regulation. Although the effect of parental emotion socialization on emotion regulation appears to be influenced by autonomic processes, research on physiological regulation and the influence of parental factors remains scarce. This study investigated the relationship between self-reported habitual emotion regulation strategies and HRV at rest as well as interoceptive sensitivity in forty-six youngsters (27 female; age: M = 13.00, SD = 2.13). Secondly, the association between these autonomic correlates and parental psychopathology was also studied. Whereas better interoceptive sensitivity was related to reduced maladaptive emotion regulation, specifically rumination, high HRV was related to more use of external emotion regulation strategies (i.e., support seeking). In addition, increased HRV and decreased interoceptive sensitivity were associated with maternal internalizing and there was evidence for a possible mediation effect of HRV in the relationship between maternal internalizing and child external emotion regulation. This study elucidates the link between cognitive emotion regulation strategies and underlying physiological regulation in adolescents but also indicates a putative influence of maternal internalizing symptoms on emotion regulation in their offspring.