Observed parental spontaneous scaffolding predicts neurocognitive signatures of child emotion regulation

Sarah Myruski, Tracy A. Dennis-Tiwary

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Emotion regulation (ER), a key predictor of positive adjustment throughout the lifespan, is forged in development with profound contributions from parents. In particular, parent scaffolding of child cognition and emotion serves to bolster child regulatory abilities beyond what they could achieve alone. Through habitual parent-child interactions, scaffolded ER likely becomes internalized and drives foundations of neurocognitive regulatory circuitry. Yet, biobehavioral research is needed to establish predictive links between parent scaffolding behaviors and neurocognitive signatures of adaptive child ER. The present study examined observed parental spontaneous scaffolding of child performance during emotionally and cognitively challenging behavioral tasks to predict a neurocognitive signature of adaptive ER: the late positive potential (LPP). The LPP is an event-related potential (ERP) that is modulated by reappraisal, a widely-studied ER strategy defined as interpreting a stimulus in a more positive light. Reduced magnitude of the LPP via reappraisal is a signature of adaptive ER because it predicts both reduced emotional arousal and increased use of adaptive ER strategies. Ninety-seven (49 females; Mage = 6.96, SD = 1.15) 5 to 9 year olds were recruited along with one parent each. Parents and children then completed a cognitively challenging blocks task and a frustrating waiting task, which were subsequently coded to quantify scaffolding quality. Participants completed a Directed Reappraisal Task (DRT) in which unpleasant pictures were paired with either reappraisal or negative interpretations while EEG was recorded. Results showed that greater parental use of high-quality scaffolding predicted greater reduction of the LPP via reappraisal. These findings suggest that habitual parent scaffolding supports adaptive ER measured at the neurocognitive level in childhood. Further, results highlight the importance of examining parent-child interactions when evaluating biological processes underlying ER in childhood.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)111-121
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Psychophysiology
StatePublished - Jul 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Neuroscience
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Physiology (medical)


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