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School-Aged Children With Higher Reflective Functioning Exhibit Lower Cardiovascular Reactivity

Borelli, JL; Ensink, K; Hong, K; Thériault Sereno, A; Drury, R; Fonagy, P; (2018) School-Aged Children With Higher Reflective Functioning Exhibit Lower Cardiovascular Reactivity. Frontiers in Medicine , 5 , Article 196. 10.3389/fmed.2018.00196. Green open access

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Abstract

Despite extensive theorizing regarding the regulatory role of reflective functioning (RF), few studies have explored the links between RF and physiological indices of emotion regulation, and none have examined these associations in children. Further, while scholars contend that RF promotes resilience via enhanced ability to process emotional experiences, including those occurring in attachment relationships, this argument has seldom been tested empirically in children. In the current study, we explore the association between RF and physiological measures of emotion reactivity and regulation, as well as the interaction of RF and attachment insecurity. We test these associations by examining children’s (N = 76; 8 to 12 years old) cardiovascular responses (respiratory sinus arrhythmia) to a standardized paradigm designed to evoke reactions regarding the experience and expression of attachment-related needs. Children also completed a semi-structured attachment interview, which was later coded for children’s attachment insecurity (operationalized as attachment dismissal and preoccupation) and RF. Our findings were largely consistent with theory and our hypotheses, suggesting that higher RF is associated with lesser cardiovascular reactivity (higher levels of RSA) during the stressor task and better recovery following the task. These links were especially strong for children with greater attachment preoccupation but did not vary as a function of children’s levels of attachment dismissal. These findings contribute to developmental theory in suggesting that RF is closely linked to physiological emotion regulation in children.

Type: Article
Title: School-Aged Children With Higher Reflective Functioning Exhibit Lower Cardiovascular Reactivity
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.3389/fmed.2018.00196
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.3389/fmed.2018.00196
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © 2018 Borelli, Ensink, Hong, Sereno, Drury and Fonagy. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY) (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.
Keywords: reflective functioning, mentalization, children, respiratory sinus arrhythmia, attachment
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Clinical, Edu and Hlth Psychology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10050536
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