DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): According to the Administration on Children and Families (DHHS, 2013) approximately 24% of child physical abuse (CPA) victims in FY2012 were less than two years of age. Despite their vulnerability, only limited research has focused specifically on risk factors associated with abuse of very young children. Although prolonged crying has been identified as a risk factor for physical abuse in this age group, there are obviously practical, methodological, and ethical issues that limit our ability to study how parents
respond to naturally occurring infant crying. To overcome these limitations, the proposed research will utilize an infant simulator to examine how parents with varying degrees of child physical abuse (CPA) risk respond to prolonged infant crying. The first specific aim (Study 1) is designed to examine whether high CPA risk parents, compared to low CPA risk parents, differ with respect to their physiological, cognitive, emotional, and behavioral responses to prolonged infant crying. Specifically, 120 (60 low-risk and 60 high-risk) parents will be asked to care for a
simulated infant programmed to cry continuously for 30 minutes. Heart rate and respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) will be recorded continuously and the sessions will be video recorded to allow for subsequent coding of parenting behaviors. Parents will be asked to complete measures of executive functioning and negative affect before and after the simulator task. The second specific aim (Study 2) is designed to explore the possibility that a mindfulness-based intervention may increase resting RSA and executive functioning in high CPA risk parents, and by doing so may alter how high CPA risk parents respond to prolonged infant crying. Prior research indicates that mindfulness interventions are associated with increased RSA and improved executive functioning, however it is not clear whether these findings generalize to high CPA risk parents. Thus, Study 2 will examine the impact of mindfulness training on RSA and executive functioning in high CPA risk parents. Specifically, 60 high CPA risk parents will be randomly assigned to either a mindfulness condition or a control condition (i.e., parent education videos). Following completion of the mindfulness training/parent education sessions, all parents will complete the simulated infant procedures used in Study 1 (i.e., care for the simulated crying infant for 30 minutes). Thus, Study 2 will explore whether mindfulness training alters how high-risk parents respond when confronted with prolonged infant crying.