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Mother–Infant Vagal Regulation in the Face-To-Face Still-Face Paradigm Is Moderated by Maternal Sensitivity


  • This study was supported by the North Carolina Child Development Research Collaborative, which is funded by the National Science Foundation through Children’s Research Initiative Grant BCS-0126475. The authors would like to thank all the parents who participated in the Durham Child Health and Development Study and the research assistants for their valuable help in collecting these data.

concerning this article should be addressed to Ginger A. Moore, 303 Moore Building, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802. Electronic mail may be sent to


Parents’ physiological regulation may support infants’ regulation. Mothers (N= 152) and 6-month-old male and female infants were observed in normal and disrupted social interaction. Affect was coded at 1-s intervals and vagal tone measured as respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA). Maternal sensitivity was assessed in free play. Mothers and infants showed opposite patterns of RSA change. During disrupted interaction, mothers’ RSA increased and infants’ decreased, suggesting self-regulation of distress. During reunion, although the typical pattern was for infants to return to baseline levels, infants of sensitive mothers and sensitive mothers both showed a significant decrease in RSA from baseline. Mothers’ and infants’ physiological responses may be a function of mutual responsiveness.

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