Neural correlates of early deliberate emotion regulation: Young children's responses to interpersonal scaffolding

Adam S. Grabell, Theodore J. Huppert, Frank A. Fishburn, Yanwei Li, Christina O. Hlutkowsky, Hannah M. Jones, Lauren S. Wakschlag, Susan B. Perlman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Deliberate emotion regulation, the ability to willfully modulate emotional experiences, is shaped through interpersonal scaffolding and forecasts later functioning in multiple domains. However, nascent deliberate emotion regulation in early childhood is poorly understood due to a paucity of studies that simulate interpersonal scaffolding of this skill and measure its occurrence in multiple modalities. Our goal was to identify neural and behavioral components of early deliberate emotion regulation to identify patterns of competent and deficient responses. A novel probe was developed to assess deliberate emotion regulation in young children. Sixty children (age 4–6 years) were randomly assigned to deliberate emotion regulation or control conditions. Children completed a frustration task while lateral prefrontal cortex (LPFC) activation was recorded via functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS). Facial expressions were video recorded and children self-rated their emotions. Parents rated their child's temperamental emotion regulation. Deliberate emotion regulation interpersonal scaffolding predicted a significant increase in frustration-related LPFC activation not seen in controls. Better temperamental emotion regulation predicted larger LPFC activation increases post- scaffolding among children who engaged in deliberate emotion regulation interpersonal scaffolding. A capacity to increase LPFC activation in response to interpersonal scaffolding may be a crucial neural correlate of early deliberate emotion regulation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100708
JournalDevelopmental Cognitive Neuroscience
StatePublished - Dec 2019


  • Deliberate emotion regulation
  • Early childhood
  • Imaging
  • Interpersonal scaffolding
  • Prefrontal cortex


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