The Roles of Respiratory Sinus Arrhythmia Reactivity and Intimate Partner Violence in Childhood as Predictors of Adolescent Risky Behavior
MetadataShow full item record
Adolescence is a time of experimentation, associated with heightened engagement in risky behaviors such as alcohol and drug use and unsafe sexual behavior. Recent literature suggests that individual differences in physiological stress reactivity and exposure to intimate partner violence (IPV) in childhood may predict problem behavior in adolescence (Silk et al. 2003; Evans et al. 2008). This study aims to examine whether respiratory sinus arrhythmia reactivity (RSAR) in middle childhood predicts risky behaviors in adolescence, and to determine whether the presence of intimate partner violence in childhood moderates this relation. Forty-three mother and child dyads were recruited as part of a longitudinal study of children at risk for behavior problems. Children's RSAR was assessed during an interpersonal stressor task when they were 9 years old on average. At this time point, mothers were assessed for the experience of intimate partner violence. When these children reached age 16, they completed questionnaires about their risky behaviors. Results indicated that RSA augmentation to interpersonal stress in childhood predicted adolescent risky behaviors. Intimate partner violence was not significantly related to a composite measure of adolescent risky behaviors, but did significantly strengthen the relation between childhood RSA augmentation to interpersonal stress and problems from alcohol use during adolescence. These results suggest that RSA augmentation to interpersonal stress may be an individual differences factor that sets some children at risk for problems with alcohol use in adolescence. The presence of intimate partner violence in their homes compounds this risk. Future research should investigate interventions that target emotion regulation skills in children exposed to IPV to prevent these children from exhibiting risky behavior in adolescence.
- Psychology