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Cardiac vagal regulation in infancy predicts executive function and social competence in preschool: Indirect effects through language.

Authors
  • Whedon, Margaret1
  • Perry, Nicole B2
  • Calkins, Susan D1
  • Bell, Martha Ann3
  • 1 Department of Human Development & Family Studies, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Greensboro, North Carolina.
  • 2 Institute of Child Development, The University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota.
  • 3 Department of Psychology, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia.
Type
Published Article
Journal
Developmental Psychobiology
Publisher
Wiley (John Wiley & Sons)
Publication Date
May 21, 2018
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1002/dev.21636
PMID: 29785749
Source
Medline
Keywords
License
Unknown

Abstract

Parasympathetic nervous system functioning in infancy may serve a foundational role in the development of cognitive and socioemotional skills (Calkins, 2007). In this study (N = 297), we investigated the potential indirect effects of cardiac vagal regulation in infancy on children's executive functioning and social competence in preschool via expressive and receptive language in toddlerhood. Vagal regulation was assessed at 10 months during two attention conditions (social, nonsocial) via task-related changes in respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA). A path analysis revealed that decreased RSA from baseline in the nonsocial condition and increased RSA in the social condition were related to larger vocabularies in toddlerhood. Additionally, children's vocabulary sizes were positively related to their executive function and social competence in preschool. Indirect effects from vagal regulation in both contexts to both 4-year outcomes were significant, suggesting that early advances in language may represent a mechanism through which biological functioning in infancy impacts social and cognitive functioning in childhood.

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