Underlying Psychophysiology of Dysregulation: Resting Heart Rate and Heart Rate Reactivity in Relation to Childhood Dysregulation
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OBJECTIVE: High co-occurrence of externalizing and internalizing problems could underlie inconsistent findings regarding the relation between heart rate (HR) and psychopathology. In this study, HR measures were examined in relation to a general dysregulation profile studied from variable- and person-centered approaches. METHOD: The sample (N = 182) consisted of 8- to 12-year-old children referred for externalizing behaviors and typically developing children (mean age 9.70, SD 1.26; 75.8% boys). Resting HR (HRrest) was assessed during a 3-minute resting period. HR reactivity (HRreactivity) was assessed during an emotionally evoking go/no-go task. RESULTS: From a variable-centered approach, a bifactor model was fitted with a general factor of dysregulation underlying symptoms of anxiety/depression, aggression, and attention problems. HRrest was positively associated with dysregulation and specific aggression. From a person-centered approach, a latent profile analysis was used to identify different psychopathology classes: normative (n = 92), predominantly aggressive (n = 69), and dysregulated (n = 14). The latter was characterized by co-occurring increased levels of anxiety/depression, aggression, and attention problems. HRrest was increased in the predominantly aggressive class and HRreactivity was increased in the dysregulated class. CONCLUSION: High HRrest, or (trait-like) over-arousal, seems to be associated with dysregulation rather than uniquely associated with low externalizing or high internalizing symptomatology. In addition, HRrest predicted greater aggression and HRrest was increased in the predominantly aggressive class. High HRreactivity, or enhanced emotional reactivity, might be characteristic for a clinically relevant dysregulated subgroup. Assessment of HR could provide additional knowledge on individual differences that can help refine diagnostics and intervention efforts.
author list (cited authors)
Deutz, M., Woltering, S., Vossen, H., Deković, M., van Baar, A. L., & Prinzie, P.