Physiological Correlates of Maternal Responsivity in Mothers of Preschools with Fragile X Syndrome

Ashley Nicole Robinson, University of South Carolina


Maternal responsivity is comprised of warm, nurturing, and stable parenting behaviors and has been found to be associated with increased cognitive, social, emotional, and language development in typically developing children and children with disabilities. Recent research in typically developing populations suggests a relationship between maternal parenting behaviors and physiological measures of arousal including heart activity and salivary cortisol levels. To date, no studies have examined this relationship in populations with Fragile X syndrome (FXS). Fragile X syndrome is the leading known inherited cause of intellectual disability. The current study explored potential physiological correlates of maternal responsivity and negative parenting behaviors, consisting of scores on behavior management, in mothers of young boys with FXS. Data collected from 37 mother-child dyads across multiple assessment time points were included in the present study. Data on levels of maternal responsivity, behavioral management, and salivary cortisol across multiple time points were included in the analyses, if available. Heart activity data from a single assessment time point was also included in the study. Results indicated that physiological measures of arousal were not related to behavior management scores. Maternal responsivity, however, was determined to be significantly related to baseline cortisol levels and this relationship varied by child age in months. Implications of findings, limitations, and directions for future research are discussed.