Maltreated youth display a blunted blood pressure response to an acute interpersonal stressor.


Although there is much evidence of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis dysfunction among individuals who have experienced child maltreatment, dysregulation of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) has received less attention. Understanding the role of the ANS in maltreated children may help clarify how these children respond to subsequent life stress. We explored ANS reactivity among 111 youth (ages 9-14), 34 of whom had experienced verified child maltreatment. ANS activity was assessed via blood pressure-a convenient, noninvasive physiological index-while youth underwent a social stress task. Blood pressure and subjective mood ratings were obtained prior to and following the task. Nonmaltreated youth experienced an increase in systolic blood pressure following the stressor, whereas maltreated youth did not. Self-reported subjective mood worsened for both groups. The current data suggest that children who experienced early stress exposure demonstrate blunted ANS reactivity. Results are discussed in terms of children's healthy adaptations to transient social stressors. In addition, we discuss the cost-effectiveness and benefits of physiological measures such as blood pressure for understanding risk for psychopathology.

DOI: 10.1080/15374416.2013.848774

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@article{Leitzke2015MaltreatedYD, title={Maltreated youth display a blunted blood pressure response to an acute interpersonal stressor.}, author={Brian T Leitzke and Lori M. Hilt and Seth D. Pollak}, journal={Journal of clinical child and adolescent psychology : the official journal for the Society of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, American Psychological Association, Division 53}, year={2015}, volume={44 2}, pages={305-13} }