Samantha Perry: Mother-Child Physiological Co-Regulation: Associations with Child Behavioral Self-Regulation

This summer, I used the funds awarded to me by Newcomb-Tulane College to run an independent research project in a psychology lab. Under the direction of my Principle Investigator, I examined whether maternal adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) affect physiological synchrony in mother-child dyads. Using mothers’ and children’s respiratory sinus arrhythmias (RSA), which is an index of one’s parasympathetic activity, I was able to measure physiological synchrony in mothers and their preschool-aged children. Following this, I used maternal ACEs as a predictor of child RSA to see the impact of ACEs on physiological synchrony.

This grant allowed me to purchase data analysis software, such as Base and Combo Mplus 8, SPSS Statistics Software 24, and AMOS, which were necessary tools to test my hypothesis, understand my results, and analyze and manipulate my data. Using these statistical software tools, I was able to learn how to conduct analyses on both the physiological and qualitative data we collect in the lab. In addition to running analyses, I learned how to effectively read research papers, how to construct literature reviews, and how to compose methods sections of papers. My graduate student mentor especially helped me to write a literature review, showing me how to introduce complex scientific topics alongside weaving an effective argument about the physiology of mother-child dyads. The ability to write an effective literature review will be an important skill going forward in my academic studies.

This grant project has enhanced the interdisciplinary focus of my academics. I chose to double major in Neuroscience and Psychology due to my interest in how biology affects and dictates behavior, and vice versa. As a culmination of what I have learned in my studies thus far, this research combines these ideas by looking at how the physiological relationships between mothers and their children are impacted by maternal childhood trauma. I was able to combine the biological neuroscience and the behavioral psychology knowledge I have gained through my classes at Tulane to formulate an in-depth psychological development project. Because my passion lies in the intersection of Neuroscience and Psychology in the mother-child relationship, I enjoyed researching where these ideas of behavior and biology collide for my independent project.

Written by Samantha Perry, Dean’s Grant recipient, 2018