Autonomic Nervous System Inflexibility During Parent–child Interactions is Related to Callous-unemotional Traits in Youth Aged 10–14 Years Old
Gepubliceerd in: Research on Child and Adolescent Psychopathology | Uitgave 12/2021Log in om toegang te krijgen
Youth with callous-unemotional (CU) traits are at high risk for aggression and antisocial behavior. Extant literature suggests that CU traits are related to abnormal autonomic responses to negatively-valenced emotional stimuli, although few studies have tested autonomic responding specifically during social interactions. To address this knowledge gap, the current study tested whether CU traits were related to autonomic activity, assessed via respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA), during several parent–child interaction tasks designed to provoke negative emotion. The sample was 162 clinically referred youth (M age = 12.03, SD = .92; 47% female). Using piecewise latent growth models, we estimated individual differences in RSA during three semi-structured social interaction tasks (reading aloud to a parent and research assistant; a recovery period from the reading task; and a parent–child conflict discussion) and tested whether CU traits were related to patterns of RSA responding across tasks. Overall, youth showed expected RSA decreases during the reading period, increases in RSA during recovery, and further decreases during the conflict discussion. However, youth with clinically-elevated CU traits had a different pattern of RSA change across tasks, such that CU traits were related to significantly less RSA change during reading and recovery. Findings suggest that less RSA engagement during social interactions and less RSA recovery may be a biomarker of CU traits. Future research is needed to examine whether this inflexibility contributes to the development of CU traits beginning early in childhood.