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Marital Conflict, Allostatic Load, and the Development of Children's Fluid Cognitive Performance

Authors

  • J. Benjamin Hinnant,

    Corresponding author
    1. The Catholic University of America
    • Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Ben Hinnant, Department of Psychology, The Catholic University of America, 303 O'Boyle Hall, 620 Michigan Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20064. Electronic mail may be sent to hinnant@cua.edu.

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  • Mona El-Sheikh,

    1. Auburn University
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    • This research was supported by National Institute of Health Grant R01-HD046795 awarded to Mona El-Sheikh. We gratefully acknowledge contributions made by the staff of our research laboratory for data collection. We also thank the school personnel, children, and parents who participated.

  • Margaret Keiley,

    1. Auburn University
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  • Joseph A. Buckhalt

    1. Auburn University
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Abstract

Relations between marital conflict, children's respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA), and fluid cognitive performance were examined over 3 years to assess allostatic processes. Participants were 251 children reporting on marital conflict, baseline RSA, and RSA reactivity (RSA-R) to a lab challenge were recorded, and fluid cognitive performance was measured using the Woodcock–Johnson III. A cross-lagged model showed that higher levels of marital conflict at age 8 predicted weaker RSA-R at age 9 for children with lower baseline RSA. A growth model showed that lower baseline RSA in conjunction with weaker RSA-R predicted the slowest development of fluid cognitive performance. Findings suggest that stress may affect development of physiological systems regulating attention, which are tied to the development of fluid cognitive performance.

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