Sociodemographic risk, parenting, and inhibitory control in early childhood: The role of respiratory sinus arrhythmia

Steven J. Holochwost, Vanessa V. Volpe, Noa Gueron-Sela, Cathi B. Propper, W. Roger Mills-Koonce

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Deficits of inhibitory control in early childhood are linked to externalizing behaviors and attention problems. While environmental factors and physiological processes are associated with its etiology, few studies have examined how these factors jointly predict inhibitory control. This study examined whether respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) functioned as a mediator or moderator of both cumulative sociodemographic risk and parenting behaviors on inhibitory control during early childhood. Methods: The sample included 206 children and their biological mothers. At 24, 30, and 36 months of child age dyads participated in a series of laboratory visits in which sociodemographic, parenting, and baseline RSA (RSAB) data were collected. Inhibitory control was assessed at 36 months using a gift-wrap delay task. Results: A series of structural equation models yielded no evidence that RSAB mediated the relations of risk or parenting and inhibitory control. RSAB moderated the effects of risk, such that high-risk children with low RSAB performed more poorly on tasks of inhibitory control, while high-risk children with high RSAB did not. Conclusions: These results suggest that higher levels of RSAB may mitigate the influence of environmental risk on the development of inhibitory control early childhood.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)973-981
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines
Issue number9
StatePublished - 13 Mar 2018


  • Inhbitory control
  • Parenting
  • Respiratory sinus arrhythmia
  • Risk factors
  • Vagal tone

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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