Maternal frontal EEG asymmetry and chronic stressors moderate the link between child conduct problems and maternal negativity.


Frontal electroencephalographic (EEG) asymmetry is associated with individual differences in positive/negative emotionality and approach/avoidance tendencies. The current study examined the moderating role of maternal resting frontal EEG asymmetry on the link between child behavior problems and maternal harsh parenting within the context of differing degrees of chronic family stressors (father unemployment, single parenthood, caring for multiple children, and household chaos). The sample included 121 mother-child pairs. Results showed that stressors and frontal EEG asymmetry together moderated the link. Child problem behaviors were moderately associated with greater maternal negativity for mothers with right frontal asymmetry, or mothers who experienced more stressors. However, no association existed between child behavior problems and maternal negativity for mothers with few stressors and left frontal asymmetry. The findings implicate transactions between household stress and a psychophysiological indicator of maternal emotional reactivity and mothers’ approach/avoidance tendencies in the etiology of parental negativity toward challenging child behaviors.