Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

Ed Tronick

Second Advisor

Nancy Snidman

Third Advisor

Paul Nestor


Although behavioral markers of regulation such as affect and gaze have been well-studied in infant-caregiver dyads, co-occurring physiological regulatory processes are not well understood. The objective of this study was to characterize static and temporal quantifiable dynamics of infant and maternal cardiac responses in typical and stressful interactions in a longitudinal sample of infant-mother dyads. Infant-mother dyads (N = 68) were observed during the double Face-to-Face Still-Face procedure (FFSF) at 16 and 24 weeks infant ages. Three aggregate measures of cardiac response, average heart rate (Mean-HR), standard deviation of normal to normal beat intervals (SDNN) and root mean square of the successive differences in heart period (RMSSD) were examined across the five episodes of the FFSF. There was a significant episode effect on Mean-HR in infants and mothers at each infant age. Group differences in Mean-HR profiles based on the dyads’ participation time during the experimental procedure were observed and group specific regulatory pathways were revealed. Longitudinal change in infant HRV profiles based on SDNN and RMSSD evidenced development in autonomic response dynamics from 16 to 24 weeks of age. While infant average HR decreased with infant age, maternal average HR increased. Maternal HRV was smaller at 24 weeks compared to 16 weeks infant age. To examine temporal changes in cardiac psychophysiology, recurrence quantification analysis (RQA) and cross-recurrence quantification analysis (CRQA) were used to generate individual and dyadic measures of predictability and stability from second-by-second HR time series. Maternal cardiac profiles based on RQA measures were characterized by a decrease in predictability and stability of HR time series during the still-face stressor and a subsequent increase during the reunion play interaction. Neither individual infant measures nor dyadic measures of predictability and stability varied significantly across episodes of the double FFSF. Implications for the use of FFSF to study regulatory dynamics as well as methodological limitations and future directions are discussed.


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