Effects of Emotion Regulation Strategies on Mothers’ Self-Reported, Physiological, and Facial Expressive Responses to Infant Laughing: Parenting: Vol 0, No 0

INTRODUCTION

Infant laughing is a communication signal that is important to the parent-child relationship. It evokes feelings of love and happiness in parents (Groh & Roisman, 2009). Infant laughing activates individuals’ brain regions associated with the reward system (Kringelbach, 2005; Riem et al., 2012). However, not all parents perceive infant laughter as rewarding and respond sensitively to infant signals, affecting the parent-child relationship (Beebe et al., 2016). Therefore, it is important to examine effective strategies that may stimulate parents to respond sensitively to their child’s laughing. In the current study, we examined whether instructing mothers to employ specific emotion regulation strategies can change their self-reported, physiological, and facial expressive responses to infant laughing.

Mothers typically respond to infant laughing and smiling with affective behaviors, which, in turn, elicit infant laughing and smiling responses (Mendes, Seidl-de-Moura, & de Oliveira Siqueira, 2009; Nwokah, Hsu, Dobrowolska, & Fogel, 1994). Those reciprocal interactions are important for children because they learn to trust their parents to attend their needs, and they feel supported by their parents to express their feelings (Juffer, Bakermans-Kranenburg, & van IJzendoorn, 2017). Mothers’ emotional facial expressions are essential in this affective interchange (Beebe et al., 2016; Mendes et al., 2009; Mireault et al., 2015). Mothers’ happy and sad facial expressions are especially relevant, as these facial expressions can be distinguished and imitated by newborns (Field, Woodson, Greenberg, & Cohen, 1982). Infant laughing sounds also evoke physiological arousal, such as skin

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