Children's Narratives and Patterns of Cardiac Reactivity

Yair Bar-Haim, Nathan A. Fox, Kirsten M. VanMeenen, Peter J. Marshall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The present study examines the associations between narrative processing, narrative production, and cardiac rate and variability in children. Heart period (HP) and vagal tone (VT) were computed for fifty-eight 7-year-olds (29 males) during a resting baseline and during epochs in which the children listened to and completed a selected set of story-stems from the MacArthur Story-Stem Battery (I. Bretherton, D. Oppenheim, H. Buchsbaum, R. N. Emde, & the MacArthur Narrative Group, 1990). Significant decreases in HP and VT were observed between a resting baseline and epochs of story-stem presentation by the experimenter. In addition, HP was shorter and VT lower during children's narrative production to emotionally laden story-stems compared with narration to a neutral story-stem. Furthermore, narrative and cardiac responses to stories containing separation-reunion themes reflected increased emotional and cognitive load compared with responses to stories that did not contain such themes. Finally, children who showed VT suppression in response to emotion-laden stories produced more coherent and adaptive narratives compared to those of children who did not show VT suppression. The findings suggest interplay between the cognitive-emotional processes associated with narrative processing and production and cardiac activation patterns.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)238-249
Number of pages12
JournalDevelopmental Psychobiology
Volume44
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - 2004

Keywords

  • Children
  • Heart period
  • Narrative
  • Respiratory sinus arrhythmia
  • Vagal tone

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