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J Abnorm Child Psychol. 2018 May;46(4):871-880. doi: 10.1007/s10802-017-0326-1.

Young Children's Physiological Reactivity during Memory Recall: Associations with Posttraumatic Stress and Parent Physiological Synchrony.

Author information

1
Department of Psychology, Tulane School of Science & Engineering, 2007 Percival Stern Hall, 6400 Freret St, New Orleans, LA, 70118, USA. Sgray4@tulane.edu.
2
Department of Psychology, Tulane School of Science & Engineering, 2007 Percival Stern Hall, 6400 Freret St, New Orleans, LA, 70118, USA.
3
Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Tulane University School of Medicine, 1440 Canal St., MS8448, New Orleans, LA, 70112, USA.

Abstract

Autonomic reactivity is implicated in stress response and social engagement - both key components of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) - but few studies have examined autonomic reactivity in pediatric samples, and no known studies have examined physiological synchrony among children with PTSD and caregivers. In a sample of 247 young children (94 girls, 153 boys), most (85%) of whom had exposure to trauma and 40% who met criteria for PTSD, we examined children's patterns of respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) at baseline and in response to a memory recall task, as well as correspondence between parents' and children's RSA. Children with PTSD demonstrated significantly higher reactivity than other groups during their recollection of a traumatic memory, but not during other memory tasks. Regarding synchrony, caregivers' and children's RSA were more significantly and positively correlated during the trauma recall task among children who had had exposure to a potentially traumatic event but did not meet PTSD criteria, suggesting physiological synchrony may be protective in contexts of trauma. Overall, findings demonstrate physiological reactivity differences among young children with PTSD. While more work is needed to understand the meaning of parent-child physiological synchrony, these data suggest that children's psychopathology is associated with physiological synchrony processes among young children with exposure to trauma.

KEYWORDS:

Emotion regulation; Parent-child relationship; Posttraumatic stress disorder; Respiratory sinus arrhythmia; Trauma; Vagal tone

PMID:
28681149
PMCID:
PMC5756528
[Available on 2019-05-01]
DOI:
10.1007/s10802-017-0326-1

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