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Parental expressed emotion-criticism and neural markers of sustained attention to emotional faces in children.

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Max Owens

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There is growing evidence for the role of environmental influences on children’s information-processing biases for affectively salient stimuli. The goal of this study was to extend this research by examining the relation between parental criticism (expressed emotion-criticism, or EE-Crit) and children’s processing of facial displays of emotion. Specifically, we examined the relation between EE-Crit and children’s sensitivity in detecting facial displays of emotion. We also examined a neural marker of sustained attention, the late positive potential (LPP) event-related potential component (ERP). Participants were 87 children (ages 7–11 years; 53.3% female, 77.8% Caucasian) and their parents (ages 24–71; 90% female, 88.9% Caucasian). Parents completed the Five-Minute Speech Sample to determine levels of EE-Crit toward their child. Children completed a morphed faces task during which behavioral and ERP responses were assessed. Although there were no group differences in sensitivity in detecting facial displays of emotion, we found that children of parents exhibiting high, compared to low, EE-Crit displayed less attention (smaller LPP magnitudes) to all facial displays of emotion (fearful, happy, sad). These results suggest that children of critical parents may exhibit an avoidant pattern of attention to affectively-salient interpersonal stimuli.


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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.