Published:  2009-10-01

Heart rate and skin conductance in four-year-old children with aggressive behavior

Authors:  J. A. Posthumus, K. B. E. Böcker, M. A. J. Raaijmakers, H. Van Engeland, W. Matthys

Tags:  Aggression, CD, HR, ODD, Preschoolers, SCL

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Autonomic underarousal, indicated by low heart rate (HR) and skin conductance level (SCL), is related to childhood aggression. However, results are inconsistent in preschoolers. We assessed HR, SCL, heart rate reactivity and skin conductance reactivity in four-year-old children. Comparisons were made between children with a high level and with a low level of aggressive behavior according to the Child Behavior Checklist 1½–5 as well as between children who were diagnosed with Oppositional Defiant Disorder or Conduct Disorder (ODD/CD) and children with a low level of aggression. Preschool children with a high level of aggressive behavior showed lower SCL and SCR and children with ODD/CD showed lower SCL. In contrast, we did not find lower HR and HRR in preschool children with a high level of aggressive behavior or ODD/CD. Thus, results suggest that decreased SCL, but not HR, is a characteristic of preschool children with aggressive behavior or ODD/CD.