The following is an automatically generated (and unchecked) transcription of this talk:
Hi, so I’m Sam. And the title of this talk is understanding parent child’s co-regulation: when does arousal synchrony become arousal contagion? And so to think about, co-regulation starts with the idea of self regulation. So self regulation is defined as the ongoing dynamic and adaptive modulation of internal state, and emotion, cognition or behavior mediated by central and peripheral physiology. So that’s a definition from Nigg, 2016. So that’s what we’re going to be using today. And when we’re thinking about what exactly we’re regulating, again, there’s lots of different things that we can be thinking about, we’re defining, we’re looking at the regulation of autonomic arousal, and defined, in our case from a Composite Measure. So an average measure of heart rate, respiratory sinus arrhythmia, and movement. There’s massive amount say about that. Here are some citations I’m not going to be talking about, you know why we’ve made that decision today. You know, some people think about fractionation as subdivisions within the autonomic nervous system, we’re treating it here as a one dimensional construct. And but as I say, you know, get in contact with me if you’ve got any questions about that. And so we know that self regulation is related to lots of different things. It’s atypical in lots of different conditions. And again, not going to be talking about that today, you know, references on that, in this paper here. But enough to make you think it’s a really, really important topic.
So what we’re talking about today really is the transition from co-regulation to self regulation, so widely accepted from the classical theories, Bronfenbrenner, Tronic, Kopp, that co-regulation is really important in early life. So infants learn self regulation by experiencing repeated cycles of co-regulation and caregiving. And overtime, they internalize the expectation of the parent soothing response. And through this, they learn self regulation. So this is the kind of classic model that we’re working to within today. And what we’re really interested in talking about today is mechanisms of co-regulation, particularly co-regulation going right and co-regulation going wrong. So we know that in other areas of developmental science, we’ve seen a shift from passive models. So that’s models that that look at a one way flow of information, and into the child. So in educational settings, a one way flow of information from teacher to student, or from the sender of social signals to the receiver of social signals. And we’re looking at a shift away from that towards interactive models of learning, that emphasize, you know, learning as a bi directional information exchange, that recognize early social communication, and is about bidirectional information, information exchanges between the sender and the receiver of social signals. So we’re thinking about that from the point of view of co-regulation. So how was the caregiver affected by arousal co-regulation, rather than just thinking about it from the infant’s point of view? And how does arousal co-regulation to the interrelationship between the infant and the caregiver? Okay, so to do that, we got some funding from the Economic Social Research Council UK. And this was done by in work one done by Celia Smith, for Farhan Mirza and Kaili Clackson. And basically, what we did was we designed this equipment. So this is a little bib with it with a built in electrocardiogram, movement, sensor, GPS, and actigraph, microphone and camera. And the baby wore that kit at home for a day. And the mum wore some clothes that had the same equipment built into them also for a day. And we basically got a day in the life snapshot. So so this is the baby’s arousal level. Remember, that’s defined from a composite of their heart rate, their respiratory sinus arrhythmia, and their movement patterns. And so we got that continuously during a date from for example, 10am to 5am. We also got the adults arousal defined in the same way, we got all of the infant’s vocalizations, which we hand coded for, on a scale from one which was the most sad to nine, which is the most positive effect. Someone went through and coated those manually to differentiate them. And then we’ve got everything they can see, so we’ve got a lot more information to debt for, but we’ve got a lot more information in total, but the information I’m talking about today is these three streams of information. Okay. So for practical reasons, we only took the sections of the data when the dyad were at home, and the baby was awake. And that was mainly as I say, for practical reasons. When the baby was out and about we found that they were strapped in a lot into buggies and prams, which strongly affected their physio data. So we just took the Home Away sections for these analyses. So when we look overall at during times of the day, when the baby’s arousal is high, is the caregivers arousal also high? Yeah, we We found that we didn’t find an association. So we use the cross correlation. And we found no association between the caregiver and the child arousal levels across the course of the whole day. Okay. But we next asked are interactions related to specific moments, such as Peak arousal moments in the child. Yep. So to look at this, we put a center threshold level on the baby’s arousal. So this is a central threshold defined for now at the top 5%. So these are the top 5% Most aroused moments of that child at that day. And we looked at how the adults arousal changed relative to those moments. So we basically cut out all those arousal, adult arousal around the moments where the child’s arousal first crosses that threshold, and we average them. So like an ERP analysis on brain data. And we found using this that parents do react to peak arousal moments in the child. So this moment, nor is the child is the moment where the child crosses their 90 percentile arousal threshold. And when we average the adult arousal date around there, we get a clear peak in the adult arousal relative to that moment. Yeah, so that’s suggesting that parents increase their own arousal, and in response to peak arousal moments in the child.
We also did the same analysis looking at how the adults arousal changes relative to infant negative habit vocalizations, and positive effort vocalizations. And here we find the same pattern more strongly for negative effort vocalizations, that the adult increases their arousal relative to negative infant negative effect. vocalizations. Unless, so for positive effort vocalizations as well. Okay. So remember, I said that across the course of the whole day, times when the baby’s arousal is high, the parents arousal isn’t also high. Yeah, we did that same analysis across correlation analysis, but instead of looking at the whole day at once, we did the same analysis on a window basis. Yep. So we looked at one section, and do we get associations between times when the parents arousal is high, and the pavers arousal is low, and then we move the window, repeated the analysis and so on. And we looked at how this changes relative to infant vocalizations. And here we get a nice clear picture, which is that relative to negative effect vocalization, so that’s the times in the day when the baby sounds upset. Yeah. around those moments, we do get an increase in parent child arousal, synchrony. So this is a cross correlation, and in parent child arousal during the course of their day, and you don’t relative to a positive effort vocalizations. Yeah. So this suggests that parents do react to peak arousal moments in the child, yeah. And then we act in two different ways. In response to an increase in infant arousal, they upregulate their own arousal. So that’s increasing their arousal state, potentially, to match the arousal state of the child. Yep. And then we also know that we get short term increases in parent child arousal, synchrony, so we get these two different types of movement. Okay. So this is parents are responding to an increase in infant arousal by matching their arousal state to their babies. Yeah. So this is interesting. We think immediately in a couple of ways. Yeah. So firstly, when does co-regulation involve matching your state to emphasize as we’re showing here? And when does it involve doing a different type of reaction? Yeah. So I get a lot of where you’re when I present this work to things like early years teachers, and we talk about this idea of when I’m with a child who’s aroused, do I increase my own arousal to match their state? And they are often quite surprised by this idea. They think much more in terms of the other way around. Yeah. So when I’m with a child who’s particularly aroused, I need to particularly work particularly hard to stay calm, get to set a positive example to the child. Yep. So it’s this tension between the two things, which both on the south face of them sound a good idea? Yeah. On the one hand, I’m matching my state to theirs as which we, which we think may be a mechanism, something to do with empathy. Yeah. And on the other, I’m setting a good example by staying calm. Yeah. So that’s a tricky question. And in this analysis in this current Balaji paper, we actually include some more analyses looking at that, but I’m not going to be talking to you about those today. And but it is a really, really good question. And the other question, which I am going to be talking about today is okay, so we knew the parents are matching their arousal states to the baby. And we think and we know, we’ve got some evidence that this is driving short term increases in parent child arousal, synchrony. So is this always a good thing is arousal state matching, always a good thing. So that’s what we went to look at in the second half of the talk today. And this is looking at co-regulation going wrong. So this work was led by a CVS Smith with Emily Jones and Tony Charmin. And as part of this, we looked at how this matching process differs between anxious and non anxious parents. So this was a community sample. So this was actually based on the same data as the previous analyses. But we subdivided our sample according using the GAD seven questionnaire which measures which is a common clinical score. for anxiety symptoms, as I say, this wasn’t a clinical sample, though, this was just a regular convenient sample of parents who volunteered from our database. Yep. So we’re looking at variability and anxiety within a typical data set. Okay? Remember that across all data, we found no association between the parents and child’s arousal. Yeah. But when you split this by parents anxiety, you do get an association in the highly anxious group. Yeah. So so the blue lines here, the high gad seven group are the high anxiety moms. And there, you do get an association, but you don’t in the logo, seven months? Yeah. So you get stronger associations between the child and the parents arousal levels during the day in the high anxiety parents, okay, so more synchrony in the high anxiety parents.
So to understand this more, we repeated the same analysis that I was just telling you about. Yeah. So we looked at the so first of all, we looked at just as I looked in the previous paper, about how the bat parents arousal changes relative to the moments where the child’s arousal crosses the 95th arousal center. Yeah. So here. So remember, I showed that overall, you get a peak in parent arousal relative to those moments, when you subdivide this peak by high low parent anxiety, it looks pretty similar. Yeah. So this suggests that our anxious and our less anxious parents are reacting similarly, when their babies crossed the 95th arousal center. So that’s their top 5% Most high high arousal moments of arousal that day. But when you reduce this threshold, yeah, and you repeat this analysis, you get this really interesting picture. Yeah. Which is when you get to these lower centile, that threshold arousal level. So these are babies times when the baby crosses its top 25% Most high arousal levels during the day. Yeah. When you lower this threshold to that level, you’re not getting a spike in the mom in the low anxiety moms anymore. Yep. So the low anxiety moms are selectively responding only when their baby really has a peak arousal crisis moment. Yep. But the high anxiety moms are responding even to the lower, less kind of crisis moments from the baby. Yeah. And that’s what we think drives this finding that overall, you get more arousal synchrony during the course of the day in highly anxious parents. Okay. So highly anxious parents are more likely to overreact to small fluctuations. Yeah. And in child arousal, which we think drives increased synchrony. Okay. And next building on this, we went to look at what’s the role of parent child vocal communication and co-regulation. And here we looked at the associations between the caregiver arousal and the caregiver vocalizations. Yeah. And again, these were hand coded on a scale from high to low intensity and positive to negative effect. Okay. So first, we looked at the association between a parent caregiver arousal, yep. And how many how likely they were to be vocalizing to their child at the time of their peak and arousal. Yeah, using a similar analysis to the one that I was telling you about earlier. And there’s more detail to be looking to be talking about with this, but I haven’t got time now, if you’re interested, I’d look at the paper will ask me in detail. But the take home was anxious caregivers are more likely to vocalize to their child around peaks in their own arousal. So when I have a peak of my arousal, if I’m an anxious caregiver, I’m more likely to vocalize to my child at that time. We also looked at how the temporal patterning of these vocalizations. Yeah. And we looked at, you know, how they co occur in time. Yeah.
And we find that in highly anxious parents, if you get one type of these high intensity vocalizations, you’re more likely to get other similar vocalizations co occurring in time. Yeah. Whereas in low anxiety parent, you’re less likely to get that. Finally, we looked at how the baby’s arousal changes relative to these parental vocalizations. And we found that in a high anxiety group, we’re getting more sustained increases in infant arousal around these vocalizations. So these are three things that we’re saying are interrelated. Firstly, we’re saying that when more anxious parents are highly aroused, they’re more likely to vocalize to their child. Secondly, they’re saying we’re saying that these vocalizations are more likely to occur in clusters? Yeah. 30, we’re saying that these vocalizations are more likely to associate with sustained increases in arousal in the child. Yeah. Okay. So coming back to these kind of one directional versus two directional arrows that I started with. Yep. So here are the traditional models of arousal co-regulation, a phrase from the point of view of an increase in infant arousal causes the caregiver to step in, which causes a decrease in infant arousal. And here we’re talking about something that’s quite different to this. Yep. We’re talking about dysregulated dynamics, and we’re talking about a different type of dynamical dysregulation. Yep. So in increasing caregiver arousal causes that can To interact differently with a child, yeah, in our case, they’re more likely to vocalize to them. Yeah. Which causes an increase in infant arousal. Yep. And I haven’t shown it here. But in this paper from development and psychopathology, we can be talking about this in more detail how that causes in turn the infant to interact differently with a caregiver, which then causes an increase in caregiver arousal. Yep. So we get this kind of vicious circle type behavior. Yeah, one thing causes another, which causes another and then you get this self sustaining cycle. Yep. In theory, you could start anywhere on a cycle. Yeah. The example I’ve given starts from an increase in caregiver arousal. But equally you could start with an increase in infant arousal or something exogenous? Yeah. But the key is, these are bi directional. dysregulated dynamics. Yeah, that’s the difference. We’re not talking about a one way flow. We’re talking about a bi directional dysregulated dynamic. Okay. So just to say why I’ve said, arousal state matching across a caregiver child dyad can be a good thing. We think we know that in typical development, caregivers respond to an increase in infant arousal by matching their own arousal state to their babies. But we also think that it’s possible that caregivers can be temporarily overmatched. Yeah. But there’s an intermediate level of matching, which is good. And the over matching can be bad, just like under matching. We think that the best pattern, maybe an intermediate level of contingency so that I’m there when you need me, but only when you need me. Yeah. And we think that that is the moment where parent child arousal synchrony turns into potentially parent child arousal contagion. And just to say very quickly, the three papers that I’ve been talking about in this talk are here, the references if you want to look them up. But thank you very much, to funders, to colleagues to members of the lab, and of course, most importantly to our participants.