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J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2010 May;51(5):550-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7610.2009.02176.x. Epub 2009 Sep 28.

Reduced electrodermal fear conditioning from ages 3 to 8 years is associated with aggressive behavior at age 8 years.

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  • 1Department of Criminology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6286, USA. yugao@sas.upenn.edu

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Poor fear conditioning characterizes adult psychopathy and criminality, but it is not known whether it is related to aggressive/antisocial behavior in early childhood.

METHODS:

Using a differential, partial reinforcement conditioning paradigm, electrodermal activity was recorded from 200 male and female children at ages 3, 4, 5, 6, and 8 years. Antisocial/aggressive and hyperactive-inattentive measures were collected at age 8.

RESULTS:

Poor electrodermal fear conditioning from ages 3 to 8 years was associated with aggressive behavior at age 8 in both males and females.

CONCLUSIONS:

Results indicate that the relationship between poor fear conditioning and aggression occurs early in childhood. Enhanced electrodermal fear conditioning may protect children against future aggressive/violent behavior. Abnormal amygdala functioning, as indirectly assessed by fear conditioning, may be one of the factors influencing the development of childhood aggression.

Comment in

PMID:
19788551
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC2891527
Free PMC Article

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