Moms who lash out have poor working memory

Dec. 4, 2009 at 2:55 PM
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BLACKSBURG, Va., Dec. 4 (UPI) -- Parents who lash out and can't control their emotions at misbehaving children have poorer working memory, U.S. researchers suggest.

Psychologists Kirby Deater-Deckard and Michael D. Sewell of the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Stephen A. Petrill of Ohio State University and Lee A. Thompson of Case Western Reserve said to avoid responding reactively to bad behavior, parents must be able to regulate their own negative emotions and thoughts.

Working memory is crucial for cognitive control of emotions -- it allows people to consider information and reason quickly when deciding what to do as opposed to reacting automatically, without thinking.

In a study involving mothers of same-sex twins, researchers visited the participants' homes and videotaped each mother as she separately interacted with each twin as they participated in two frustrating tasks -- drawing pictures with an Etch-A-Sketch and moving a marble through a tilting maze. In addition, the mothers completed a battery of tests measuring various cognitive abilities, including working memory.

The study, published in Psychological Science, reveals that mothers whose negativity was most strongly linked with their child's challenging behaviors were those with the poorest working memory skills.

Working memory involves interim integration, processing, disposal and retrieval of information.

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