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The Effect of Emotion Regulation on Inhibitory Control for Welfare-Involved Parents Depends on Socioeconomic Risk

Fri, March 22, 7:45 to 9:15am, Baltimore Convention Center, Floor: Level 1, Exhibit Hall B

Integrative Statement

Inhibitory control (IC) has been conceptualized as a crucial cognitive ability involved in adapting to changing demands in the environment. In samples of young children, disparities in IC and related executive functions as a function of socioeconomic status (SES) have been repeatedly demonstrated (Giuliano et al., 2018; Hackman & Farah 2009; Sarsour et al., 2010); however, less is known about whether socioeconomic risk factors influence IC in parents of young children.
Here, we examined the influence of SES on behavioral and self-reported indices of IC in parents of young children during the Stop Signal Task (Kok et al., 2004). Behavioral performance was measured via Stop Signal Reaction Time (SSRT), an estimate of the amount of time it takes individuals to successfully inhibit a prepotent response. Of particular interest to the present study was to examine the link between emotional regulation and inhibitory control, and whether this link differed as a function of cumulative socioeconomic risk.
We hypothesized that: 1) poor emotional regulation (composite of Emotional Control and Self Monitor subscales; BRIEF) would be associated with poorer IC, reflected by longer SSRTs, and 2) this link would be strongest in individuals from the highest cumulative risk households (low income, low education, single parenthood). Behavioral (Stop Signal Task; Kok et al., 2004) and survey measures (BRIEF; Roth et al., 1996) were analyzed for 98 parents (Mage = 31.64 years, SD = 6.69) of young children involved in child welfare services. Cumulative socioeconomic risk was conceptualized as a composite index of annual household income, maternal marital status, and maternal education.
Data were analyzed as a two-way, between-subjects analysis of variance. The cumulative risk-by-emotion regulation interaction was significant, F(3, 90) = 3.70, p = .015, indicating that the effect of emotion regulation on IC depends on socioeconomic risk status. The a priori hypothesis that the difference between the effect of low and high emotion regulation would be greatest for those with the highest socioeconomic risk was evaluated with a planned interaction-effect comparison. The difference between low and high emotion regulation was significant for those with just one risk factor, F(1, 90) = 8.57, p = .004, and the difference between socioeconomic risk status was significant for those with greater emotion regulation, F(3, 90) = 2.72, p = .049. For those with poorer emotion regulation, SSRTs were significantly slower for those with two socioeconomic risk factors (M = 284.96) compared to one (M = 195.56), p < .05. For those with greater emotion regulation, SSRTs were significantly slower for those with all three risk factors (M = 389.11) compared to those with none (M = 238.00) or two risk factors (M = 244.72).
In summary, these results demonstrate that socioeconomic risk influences the interplay between “hot” measures of emotion regulation and relatively “cold” measures of self-regulation indexed by IC. Future analyses will examine whether associations between socioeconomic risk and inhibitory control are related to effects of SES on error-monitoring, as indexed by response-locked neural activity (Hajcak et al., 2003).

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