Multisystem physiological reactivity during help-seeking for attachment needs in school-aged children: differences as a function of attachment

Jessica L. Borelli*, Gerin Gaskin, Patricia Smiley, Debbie Chung, Ben Shahar, Guy Bosmans

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations

Abstract

In this study, we sought to expand on what is currently known regarding autonomic nervous system (ANS) reactivity in middle childhood as a function of attachment. ANS activity includes multiple indices–respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) is an index of parasympathetic nervous system activation (PNS) and electrodermal activity (EDA) is an index of sympathetic nervous system activation (SNS). Children (N = 103) completed Child Attachment Interviews and read vignettes describing situations aimed to activate attachment needs (NEED; e.g., getting hurt, which can elicit need for comfort or assistance) and help-seeking (HS; when children experience need and seek comfort from attachment figures), while SNS and PNS reactivity were monitored. Attachment was not associated with children’s SNS or PNS reactivity during NEED, but attachment was associated with physiological reactivity during HS: Dismissing attachment was associated with greater SNS activation (higher EDA) and preoccupied attachment with PNS deactivation (lower RSA, greater vagal withdrawal) during HS.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)117-131
Number of pages15
JournalAttachment and Human Development
Volume25
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.

Keywords

  • Attachment
  • electrodermal activation
  • help-seeking
  • middle childhood
  • respiratory sinus arrhythmia
  • vulnerability

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