Well-regulated attention and memory processes are critical to healthy cognitive development in childhood and beyond. Although nearly all children show dramatic improvements in their self-regulation of these cognitive processes, the etiology of individual differences and this developmental progression is poorly understood. Current theory postulates that bio-social mechanisms are most likely involved, and in particular, that optimal development of self-regulated attention and working memory is promoted not only by certain complements of genes but by co-occurring socialization experiences within the family.
The aim of the proposed study of mothers and their 48-month-old children is to conduct a systematic analysis of mother-child similarities and differences in behavioral and psycho-physiological indicators of executive attention and memory, and to examine the role of maternal scaffolding and socialization behavior in these cross-generation links. A growing literature on genetic and neural influences on executive attention and memory suggests that family studies should reveal evidence of moderate effect sizes representing parent-offspring similarity. This similarity could arise from the transmission of genes that influence individual differences in executive attention and memory or the influence of maternal behavior on young children's developing self-regulation of these cognitive processes-although the mechanisms probably involve both. Thus, the first aim of this study is to develop a measurement protocol that permits reliable and valid assessment of adult and 4-year-old phenotypes representing executive attention and memory, evidenced as strong internal and external validity within age-group.
The second aim i s to investigate whether and how maternal executive attention and memory are associated with 4-year-old biological children's executive attention and memory by estimating the statistical associations between mother and child behavioral and EEG measures. Furthermore, the third aim is to examine how maternal scaffolding behaviors (i.e., engagement of joint attention;encouragement of persistence;age-appropriate demonstration, support, and re-direction) operate in accounting for systematic patterns of mother-child similarity and differentiation. This investigation will focus on behavioral and EEG measures of executive attention and memory, to test whether the behavioral and psycho-physiological levels of analysis reflect similar or distinctive underlying processes in the links between mother and child generations.

Public Health Relevance

Although the care giving environment has been given an essential role in social development, little attention has been given to the role of care giving in the development of complex cognitions, which are associated with school achievement, including reading and math. Because of these critical outcomes, there is a need to examine the development of these cognitive processes and to include both genetic transmission and the influence of maternal behaviors.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Small Research Grants (R03)
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Pediatrics Subcommittee (CHHD)
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Maholmes, Valerie
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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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Crandall, AliceAnn; Ghazarian, Sharon R; Deater-Deckard, Kirby et al. (2018) The Interface of Maternal Cognitions and Executive Function in Parenting and Child Conduct Problems. Fam Relat 67:339-353
Atzaba-Poria, Naama; Deater-Deckard, Kirby; Bell, Martha Ann (2017) Mother-Child Interaction: Links Between Mother and Child Frontal Electroencephalograph Asymmetry and Negative Behavior. Child Dev 88:544-554
Deater-Deckard, Kirby; Bell, Martha Ann (2017) Maternal executive function, heart rate, and EEG alpha reactivity interact in the prediction of harsh parenting. J Fam Psychol 31:41-50
Blankenship, Tashauna L; O'Neill, Meagan; Deater-Deckard, Kirby et al. (2016) Frontotemporal function]al connectivity and executive functions contribute to episodic memory performance. Int J Psychophysiol 107:72-82
Wang, Zhe; Deater-Deckard, Kirby; Bell, Martha Ann (2016) The Role of Negative Affect and Physiological Regulation in maternal attribution. Parent Sci Pract 16:206-218
Deater-Deckard, Kirby; Li, Mengjiao; Bell, Martha Ann (2016) Multifaceted emotion regulation, stress and affect in mothers of young children. Cogn Emot 30:444-57
Cuevas, Kimberly; Rajan, Vinaya; Morasch, Katherine C et al. (2015) Episodic memory and future thinking during early childhood: Linking the past and future. Dev Psychobiol 57:552-65
Chen, Nan; Bell, Martha Ann; Deater-Deckard, Kirby (2015) Maternal Frontal EEG Asymmetry and Chronic Stressors Moderate the Link between Child Conduct Problems and Maternal Negativity. Soc Dev 24:323-340
Spangler, Derek P; Bell, Martha Ann; Deater-Deckard, Kirby (2015) Emotion suppression moderates the quadratic association between RSA and executive function. Psychophysiology 52:1175-85
Cuevas, Kimberly; Deater-Deckard, Kirby; Kim-Spoon, Jungmeen et al. (2014) What's mom got to do with it? Contributions of maternal executive function and caregiving to the development of executive function across early childhood. Dev Sci 17:224-38

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