Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Bridgett, David J.

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Psychology


Caregiver sensitivity and intrusiveness during infancy are predictive of the development of self-regulation, joint-attention, and cognitive ability. However, few studies have examined predictors of caregiver responses to infant distress. Of particular note is vagal tone, specifically respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA), a physiological measure of top-down self-regulation. Previous work has identified a relationship between RSA, as well as other measures of caregiver self-regulation, with caregiver sensitivity and intrusiveness. The current study also examined additional predictors of caregiver responsiveness, behavioral inhibition and activation, which was conceptualized as a bottom-up system of self-regulation due to its influence on motivation and personality. It was hypothesized that behavioral inhibition and activation systems (i.e., BIS and BAS respectively), based on Gray’s Reinforcement Sensitivity Theory (Gray, 1972; Gray & McNaughton, 2000), would interact with RSA to predict caregiver sensitivity and intrusiveness when interacting with a distressed simulated infant in a sample of non-parent, emerging adults (N = 160). Main and interaction effects were nonsignificant. A significant negative relationship was found between behavioral inhibition and RSA and a trend-level positive relationship was found between behavioral activation and RSA. Interpretation of these findings, limitations, and future directions are discussed.


121 pages




Northern Illinois University

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