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Using Mobile Eye-Tracking Methodology to Capture Parent-Child Dynamics in the Context of Anxiety Risk

Sat, March 23, 4:15 to 5:45pm, Baltimore Convention Center, Floor: Level 3, Room 313

Integrative Statement

Temperamental behavioral inhibition (BI) is a robust endophenotype for anxiety and is characterized by increased sensitivity to novelty, social withdrawal, and anxious behaviors (Fox, Hane, & Pine, 2007). Overly responsive parenting can reinforce children’s wariness by rewarding signs of distress (Fox et al., 2005). BI children, in particular, may elicit over-solicitous behavior from parents in challenging or novel situations (Rubin, Burgess, & Hastings, 2002). How children respond to their parents in these situations is less clear. Research infers that children pick up on overt parental behavioral signals (Rubin et al., 2001) and subtle emotional cues (Aktar et al., 2014). To date, no one has observed inhibited children attending to their parent’s behavior throughout an interaction task. Beyond global ratings of behavior, fine-grained, dynamic measures are needed to understand mechanisms supporting relations between parenting and socioemotional functioning. Mobile eye-tracking may elucidate child attention patterns within micro-longitudinal dynamics of parent-child relationships. The current study examined dyadic rigidity (i.e., number of states visited, mean duration in each state, and transitions between states) with state space grids, using children’s attention patterns (captured via mobile eye-tracking) and parenting behavior indicators. Additionally, we investigated whether rigidity differs with BI levels.

Young children in an ongoing study (10-coded-to-date, 5 BI, 3 girls; Mage=5.88 years; SDage=0.69; To-be-coded-N=40) and their primary caregivers completed a modified Parent-Child Challenge Task (PCCT; Lunkenheimer, 2009), during which the child wore a head-mounted eye-tracker (PUPIL; Kassner, Patera, & Bulling, 2014). The dyad was asked to complete a series of tangram puzzles in six minutes. Parent body, parent face, parent referencing, and puzzle task areas of interest were coded frame-by-frame via mobile eye-tracking. Parenting was coded for intrusion, directives, teaching, and positive reinforcement (Lunkenheimer, 2009). Parents completed the Behavioral Inhibition Questionnaire (BIQ; Bishop, Spence, & McDonald, 2003).

Parent body, face, and reference proportions were summed to reflect proportion of time child looked to parent during the task. On average, children spent 17% of the task looking to the parent (Range=5-33%) and 78% on the puzzle (Range=51-92%). On average, parents spent 20% of the task directing (Range=2-50%), 3% intruding (Range=0-12%), 26% teaching (Range=8-46%), and 4% positively reinforcing (Range=1-7%). Preliminary multiple regression analyses indicated that the model including BI and proportion parent spent teaching predicting proportion child spent looking to parent was significant, F(2,7)=6.997, p=.021, R2=.667. For parents who spent more time teaching, children looked to them more during the task (B=0.781, t=3.732, p<.01). Effects of BI and other parenting behaviors were not significant. Using data from state space grids (example for a non-BI and BI child in Figure 1), t-tests indicated a marginally significant difference between BI (M=5.972sec) and non-BI (M=3.530sec) groups on mean duration in each state, t=-2.151, p=.076 (Figure 2). BI dyads remained in each state for a longer period of time, a preliminary indicator of dyadic rigidity. Number of states visited and transitions were not significant. This study is a first step to examining differences between familial self-organization using micro-longitudinal data of parenting behavior and child looking behavior during a novel challenge task.


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