Youth coping and cardiac autonomic functioning: Implications for social and academic adjustment

Xiaomei Li, Tianying Cai, Virnaliz Jimenez, Kelly M. Tu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Extending literature on youth coping and stress physiology, this two-wave longitudinal study examined independent and interactive roles of youth coping with daily stressors (i.e., peer, academic) and cardiac autonomic functioning in subsequent social and academic adjustment across the transition to middle school. Our sample consisted of 100 typically developing youth (10–12 years old at Time 1, 53 boys, 43% ethnic minorities) who reported on their coping strategies in response to peer and academic stress. Youth participated in laboratory tasks (i.e., baseline, mother–youth conversations about youth's actual peer and academic challenges) during which sympathetic and parasympathetic activities were recorded, and cardiac autonomic functioning indicators were derived. Youth, mothers, and teachers reported on various aspects of youths’ social and academic adjustment at Times 1 and 2. Results revealed that, for both peer and academic domains, greater use of engagement coping strategies was prospectively linked with better adjustment 7 months later, but only among youth who exhibited higher (greater sympathetic–parasympathetic coactivation) but not lower (limited coactivation, or coinhibition) cardiac autonomic regulation at baseline. Findings suggest that a match between more engagement coping behaviors and greater cardiac autonomic capacity to coactivate the parasympathetic and sympathetic branches is linked with better social and academic adjustment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere22338
JournalDevelopmental psychobiology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • academic adjustment
  • autonomic nervous system
  • cardiac autonomic regulation
  • coping
  • early adolescence
  • peer adjustment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Developmental Biology


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