Children's physiological indices of empathy and their socioemotional adjustment: does caregivers' expressivity matter?
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Relations of heart rate and skin conductance reactions to mildly evocative empathy-inducing slides with socioemotional functioning were examined for 154 children (mean age = 9 years, 5 months). In addition, maternal expressivity was tested as a moderator of these relations. Parents and teachers rated children's socioemotional functioning, and a behavioral measure of children's regulation was obtained. Boys who exhibited higher skin conductance and higher heart rate to slides depicting negative emotions were better regulated, less emotionally intense, and better adjusted than their peers. Furthermore, boys' regulation and adjustment were positively related to such physiological responding to negative slides if maternal negative expressivity was relatively low or moderate, but not high. Fewer findings were obtained for girls or for positive slides.