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Compassionate Love Buffers Stress-Reactive Mothers From Fight-or-Flight Parenting

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The links among mothers' compassionate love for their child, autonomic nervous system activity, and parenting behavior during less and more challenging mother-child interactions were examined. Mothers expressed and reported less negative affect when they exhibited autonomic patterns of increased parasympathetic dominance (high parasympathetic and low sympathetic activation) or autonomic coactivation (high parasympathetic and high sympathetic activation) during the less challenging interaction and autonomic coactivation during the more challenging interaction. Compassionate love predicted less reported and observed negativity in mothers who showed increased sympathetic nervous system dominance (high sympathetic and low parasympathetic activation). Compassionate love appeared to help mothers, and particularly those who experienced strong physiological arousal during difficult parenting situations, establish positive socialization contexts for their children and avoid stress-induced adverse parenting.

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