Linking Parental Monitoring and Psychological Control with Internalizing Symptoms in Early Adolescence: The Moderating Role of Vagal Tone

Tianying Cai, Kelly M. Tu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

The present study investigated baseline respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) as moderator of the prospective association between parenting (i.e., monitoring knowledge, psychological control) and internalizing symptoms among typically developing adolescents across the transition to middle school. Gender differences in the aforementioned association were tested as an exploratory aim. At Time 1 (5th grade), participants included 100 young adolescents (53% boys; 57% European American; Mage = 11.05 years, SD = 0.33) and their mothers (Mage = 41.25 years, SD = 6.22; 96.0% biological). At Time 2 (6th grade), 89 adolescents and their mothers returned. To address study aims, a multi-informant, multi-method, longitudinal design was used. At Time 1, mothers reported on monitoring knowledge and psychological control, and adolescents’ baseline RSA was measured during a resting baseline period. At Times 1 and 2, adolescents reported on three indices of internalizing symptoms (depressive symptoms, social anxiety, loneliness and social dissatisfaction). Results from multiple regression analyses revealed that higher levels of psychological control predicted higher levels of depressive symptoms and loneliness over time. Further, among boys, lower baseline RSA exacerbated the link between maternal psychological control and higher levels of depressive symptoms and loneliness, whereas higher baseline RSA attenuated the effect. Overall, our findings for boys were consistent with prior evidence of lower baseline RSA as a risk factor and higher baseline RSA as a protective factor against psychopathology. Findings contribute to the growing literature on biopsychosocial interactions and youth mental health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)809-821
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Abnormal Child Psychology
Volume48
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020

Keywords

  • Internalizing symptoms
  • Parental monitoring knowledge
  • Parenting
  • Psychological control
  • Vagal tone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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