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1.  Preschool Children's Cardiac Reactivity Moderates Relations Between Exposure to Family Violence and Emotional Adjustment 
Child maltreatment  2011;16(3):205-215.
This study examined relations between cardiac reactivity, family violence exposure (i.e., child maltreatment [CM] and inter-partner violence [IPV]), and preschool children's emotional adjustment. A sample of 92 mother–preschooler dyads was drawn from predominantly low-income, rural communities. Dyads participated in a laboratory session in which children's Electrocardiograph (ECG) monitoring occurred during a resting baseline, joint-challenge, and individual emotional and cognitive tasks. Mothers consented to review of Children & Youth Services (CYS) records for CM and completed an IPV measure. Mothers rated children's emotional adjustment, and observers rated children on their frustration and positive affect. Children's vagal suppression was shown to moderate relations between family violence exposure and emotional adjustment. Findings indicated that children greater in vagal suppression showed better emotional adjustment when from families low in violence. However, regardless of children's level of vagal suppression, all children showed poorer emotional adjustment when from families high in violence.
PMCID: PMC3582334  PMID: 21593016
child maltreatment; exposure to violence; physiological processes; preschoolers
2.  Mapping Cardiac Physiology and Parenting Processes in Maltreating Mother–Child Dyads 
Child maltreatment (CM) lies on an extreme end of the continuum of parenting-at-risk, and while CM has been linked with a variety of behavioral indicators of dysregulation in children, less is known about how physiological markers of regulatory capacity contribute to this association. The present study examined patterns of mother and child physiological regulation and their relations with observed differences in parenting processes during a structured interaction. Abusing, neglecting, and non-CM mothers and their 3- to 5-year-old children completed a resting baseline and moderately challenging joint task. The structural analysis of social behavior was used to code mother–child interactions while simultaneous measures of respiratory sinus arrhythmia were obtained. Results indicated that physically abusive mothers were more likely to react to children’s positive bids for autonomy with strict and hostile control, than either neglecting or non-CM mothers. CM exposure and quality of maternal responding to children’s autonomous bids were uniquely associated with lower parasympathetic tone in children. Results provide evidence of neurodevelopmental associations between early CM exposure, the immediate interactive context of parenting, and children’s autonomic physiology.
PMCID: PMC3582338  PMID: 21842991
parenting; SASB; psychophysiology; physical abuse; neglect
3.  Direct and Passive Prenatal Nicotine Exposure and the Development of Externalizing Psychopathology 
The association between maternal smoking during pregnancy and childhood antisocial outcomes has been demonstrated repeatedly across a variety of outcomes. Yet debate continues as to whether this association reflects a direct programming effect of nicotine on fetal brain development, or a phenotypic indicator of heritable liability passed from mother to child. In the current study, we examine relations between maternal smoking and child behavior among 133 women and their 7–15-year-olds, who were recruited for clinical levels of psychopathology. In order to disentangle correlates of maternal smoking, women who smoked during pregnancy were compared with (a) those who did not smoke, and (b) those who did not smoke but experienced significant second-hand exposure. Second-hand exposure was associated with increased externalizing psychopathology in participant mothers’ offspring. Moreover, regression analyses indicated that smoke exposure during pregnancy predicted conduct disorder symptoms, over and above the effects of income, parental antisocial tendencies, prematurity, birth weight, and poor parenting practices. This is the first study to extend the findings of externalizing vulnerability to second hand smoke exposure.
PMCID: PMC2711763  PMID: 17520361
Maternal smoking; Conduct disorder; Aggression; Second hand smoke; ADHD
4.  Neurological Correlates of Reward Responding in Adolescents With and Without Externalizing Behavior Disorders 
Journal of abnormal psychology  2009;118(1):203-213.
Opposing theories of striatal hyper- and hypodopaminergic functioning have been suggested in the pathophysiology of externalizing behavior disorders. To test these competing theories, the authors used functional MRI to evaluate neural activity during a simple reward task in 12- to 16-year-old boys with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and/or conduct disorder (n = 19) and in controls with no psychiatric condition (n = 11). The task proceeded in blocks during which participants received either (a) monetary incentives for correct responses or (b) no rewards for correct responses. Controls exhibited striatal activation only during reward, shifting to anterior cingulate activation during nonreward. In contrast, externalizing adolescents exhibited striatal activation during both reward and nonreward. Externalizing psychopathology appears to be characterized by deficits in processing the omission of predicted reward, which may render behaviors that are acquired through environmental contingencies difficult to extinguish when those contingencies change.
PMCID: PMC2696631  PMID: 19222326
conduct disorder; ADHD; striatum; anterior cingulate cortex; fMRI

Results 1-4 (4)