Child emotion lability is associated with within-task changes of autonomic activity during a mirror-tracing task

Kyle P. Rawn, Peggy S. Keller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Adaptive biological and emotional stress responding are both critical for healthy human development. However, the complex associations between the two are not fully understood. The current study addresses this gap in research by studying associations of child emotion regulation and lability with within-task changes in the biological stress response during a mirror-tracing task. Participants were 59 families including two parents and a child between 5 and 12 years old (52.2% female). Parents reported on family demographics and completed the Emotion Regulation Checklist. Child skin conductance level (SCL) and respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) were recorded during a baseline task and during a 3-minute mirror-tracing task. Within-task patterns of SCL and RSA during the task were estimated with multilevel modeling (measures within persons). The emotion regulation subscale was unrelated to any facet of SCL/RSA time courses. However, lower emotion lability was related to SCL patterns that changed less during the task and were overall lower. For RSA, lower emotion lability was related to higher initial RSA that significantly decreased during the task. These findings suggest that higher child emotion lability may promote increased physiological arousal of target organs during challenging activities.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere14354
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was funded by a grant from the University of Kentucky Center for Research on Violence Against Women. This funding source had no involvement in the design of the study, the collection of the data, or the preparation of the manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Society for Psychophysiological Research.


  • autonomic nervous system
  • child emotion lability
  • child emotion regulation
  • respiratory sinus arrhythmia
  • skin conductance level
  • time course analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Physiology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Physiology (medical)


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