Shyness, aggression, and empathy in children of shy mothers: Moderating influence of children's psychophysiological self‐regulation
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Maternal psychological factors are known to play a critical role in children's socioemotional development, particularly in pro- and anti-social behaviors. Although shyness is a ubiquitous phenomenon and associated with social anxiety, relatively few have examined the relation between maternal shyness and children's socioemotional development. We explored the moderating influence of children's resting respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) and RSA change on the relation between maternal shyness and children's shyness, empathy, and aggression in 129 (62 males) typically developing 4- (n = 81) and 6- (n = 48) year-olds. We found that 6-year-olds' RSA change score from baseline to a cognitive challenge task acted as a moderator on the relation between mother's shyness and child observed empathy but not for maternal report of child aggression or child's observed shyness. These results were not found in the 4-year-olds. Six-year-olds with relatively high RSA change and relatively low maternal shyness displayed the highest levels of empathy. These results suggest that the maternal caregiving environment and biological characteristics of the child may confer individual differences in prosocial behaviors in children. Findings are discussed in terms of age-related differences in socioemotional behaviors in children of shy mothers.
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