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Cardiac Vagal Regulation and Early Peer Status


  • This research was supported by National Institute of Mental Health awards (MH 55625 and MH 55584) to the third author and an NIMH award (MH 58144) to the second and third authors. The authors would like to thank Kathryn Degnan, Louise Berdan, David Topor, Rachael Reavis, and Caitlin Stone for their help in subject recruitment, data collection, and coding. The authors also thank the families who generously gave their time to participate in the study.

concerning this article should be addressed to Susan P. Keane, Department of Psychology, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Greensboro, NC 27402. Electronic mail may be sent to


A sample of 341 5 ½ -year-old children participating in an ongoing longitudinal study was the focus of a study on the relation between cardiac vagal regulation and peer status. To assess cardiac vagal regulation, resting measures of respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) and RSA change (suppression) to 3 cognitively and emotionally challenging tasks were derived. Results indicated that vagal regulation was positively associated with peer status. In addition, mediational analyses revealed that the relation between vagal regulation and peer status was mediated through better social skills for girls and better social skills and fewer behavior problems for boys. These findings are discussed in terms of the role of vagal regulation in the facilitation of children's positive social behavior.