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Biol Psychol. 2007 Feb;74(2):154-64. Epub 2006 Nov 22.

Domestic violence and vagal reactivity to peer provocation.

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Department of Psychology, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, USA.


This paper examined whether individual differences in children's vagal reactivity to peer provocation were related to domestic violence within the family. It also examined the question of whether conduct-problem children who show vagal augmentation to peer provocation come from families with high levels of domestic violence. During the peer provocation, children were expecting to interact with a difficult peer while vagal reactivity was assessed. Groups were divided into children who showed vagal augmentation and vagal suppression to the stressful peer interaction. Findings indicated that conduct-problem children who showed vagal augmentation to interpersonal challenge came from families with the highest levels of domestic violence. Vagal augmentation was also associated with a greater number of conduct-related problems for those children exposed to high levels of domestic violence. Discussion highlights the role of individual differences in physiological reactivity in understanding children's behavior problems in relation to domestic violence.

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