Parents regulate arousal while sharing experiences with their child: a study of pupil diameter change responses

Jessica Yarmolovsky, Maya Sabag, Or Lipschits, Ronny Geva

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1 Scopus citations


Introduction: Parents provide their children with their first exposures to reciprocal shared experiences, and parental modeling of socio-emotional behaviors and regulatory responses largely influences their child’s behavioral and neurological development. Some parental reactions are conscious, while others are non-volitional. This project aimed to explore parent-child pupil dilation change responses during shared interactions, specifically, whether parents’ neuro-regulatory responses when sharing experiences with their child are different than responses of children interacting with their parents or children and adult peers sharing with each other. Methods: To test this, four distinct interacting groups were recruited: (1) Parents sharing with their child; (2) Children sharing with their parent; (3) Children sharing with peers; and (4) Adults sharing with peers. All dyads engaged in a computerized shared imagery task, which facilitates communication and mental imagery during a shared experience. During the task, pupil diameter change was recorded as a measure of regulatory response. Results: Findings highlight that parents sharing with their child have lower pupil diameter change than children sharing with their parents (p < 0.01), children sharing with peers (p < 0.01), and adults sharing with peers (p < 0.05), While no differences were seen between children sharing with parents, children sharing with peers or adults sharing with peers. Discussion: Findings deepen the understanding of the neuroscience of parenting, by suggesting that parents, even of older children and adolescents, tend to regulate their arousal when interacting with their child, a response that proves to be unique compared to other dyad types for sharing experiences. Considering this dynamic, findings may direct future parent-led intervention methods to improve the child’s socio-emotional development.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1177687
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
StatePublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2023 Yarmolovsky, Sabag, Lipschits and Geva.


  • dyadic interaction
  • parent-child
  • pupil diameter change
  • self-regulation
  • sharing


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