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Parasympathetic Nervous System Reactivity Moderates Associations Between Children’s Executive Functioning and Social and Academic Competence

McQuade, Julia ; Penzel, Taylor ; Silk, Jennifer ; Lee, Kyung

Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 2017, Vol.45(7), pp.1355-1367 [Peer Reviewed Journal]

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  • Title:
    Parasympathetic Nervous System Reactivity Moderates Associations Between Children’s Executive Functioning and Social and Academic Competence
  • Author/Creator: McQuade, Julia ; Penzel, Taylor ; Silk, Jennifer ; Lee, Kyung
  • Language: English
  • Subjects: Executive function ; Psychophysiology ; Respiratory sinus arrhythmia ; Social competence ; Academic competence
  • Is Part Of: Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 2017, Vol.45(7), pp.1355-1367
  • Description: This study examined whether children with poor executive functioning (EF) evidenced less social and academic impairments, compared to other children, if they demonstrated adaptive parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) regulation during experiences of failure. Participants with and without clinical elevations in ADHD symptoms ( N  = 61; 9–13 years; 48% male; 85% Caucasian) were administered a battery of EF tests and completed manipulated social and cognitive failure tasks. While participants completed failure tasks, respiratory sinus arrhythmia reactivity (RSA-R) was measured as an indicator of PNS reactivity. Children’s social and academic impairment in daily life was assessed based on parent and teacher report on multiple measures. RSA-R during social failure moderated the association between poor EF and adult-rated social impairment and RSA-R during cognitive failure moderated the association between poor EF and adult-rated academic impairment. Simple effects indicated that poor EF was significantly associated with impairment when children demonstrated RSA activation (increased PNS activity) but not when children demonstrated RSA withdrawal (decreases in PNS activity). Domain-crossed models (e.g., reactivity to social failure predicting academic impairment) were not significant, suggesting that the moderating effect of RSA-R was domain-specific. Results suggest that not all children with poor EF evidence social and academic impairment; RSA withdrawal during experiences of failure may be protective specifically for children with impaired EF skills.
  • Identifier: ISSN: 0091-0627 ; E-ISSN: 1573-2835 ; DOI: 10.1007/s10802-016-0246-5