Infant Parasympathetic and Sympathetic Activity during Baseline, Stress and Recovery: Interactions with Prenatal Adversity Predict Physical Aggression in Toddlerhood.
OBJECTIVE The goal of this study was to examine respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA), an indicator of parasympathetic nervous system-linked cardiac activity, and skin conductance level (SCL), a sympathetic indicator, as moderators of the link between child maltreatment and adolescent aggression. METHOD Participants were 234 maltreated (48.3% male) and 128 (57.8% male) comparison youth aged 9-16 years participating in wave 2 of a longitudinal study. RESULTS Regression analyses suggest that among boys, high RSA may be protective against the effects of maltreatment on aggressive behavior. Among girls, the moderating effect of RSA was further moderated by SCL reactivity such that low levels of both baseline RSA and SCL reactivity, or conversely high levels of both baseline RSA and SCL reactivity, exacerbated the link between maltreatment and aggression. CONCLUSIONS High RSA may protect against the effects of maltreatment on aggressive behavior, though this effect may be moderated by SCL reactivity among girls.