Child maltreatment and autonomic nervous system reactivity: identifying dysregulated stress reactivity patterns by using the biopsychosocial model of challenge and threat


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{OBJECTIVE: Disruptions in stress response system development have been posited as mechanisms linking child maltreatment (CM) to psychopathology. Existing theories predict elevated sympathetic nervous system reactivity after CM, but evidence for this is inconsistent. We present a novel framework for conceptualizing stress reactivity after CM that uses the biopsychosocial model of challenge and threat. We predicted that in the context of a social-evaluative stressor, maltreated adolescents would exhibit a threat pattern of reactivity, involving sympathetic nervous system activation paired with elevated vascular resistance and blunted cardiac output (CO) reactivity. METHODS: A sample of 168 adolescents (mean age =14.9 years) participated. Recruitment targeted maltreated adolescents; 38.2% were maltreated. Electrocardiogram, impedance cardiography, and blood pressure were acquired at rest and during an evaluated social stressor (Trier Social Stress Test). Pre-ejection period (PEP), CO, and total peripheral resistance reactivity were computed during task preparation, speech delivery, and verbal mental arithmetic. Internalizing and externalizing symptoms were assessed. RESULTS: Maltreatment was unrelated to PEP reactivity during preparation or speech, but maltreated adolescents had reduced PEP reactivity during math. Maltreatment exposure (F(1,145) = 3.8-9.4

Last updated on 09/12/2018