Exposure to intimate partner aggression during childhood is associated with blunted skin conductance recovery following stress in early adulthood

Kyle P. Rawn, Peggy S. Keller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

This study examines skin conductance level (SCL) trajectories and childhood exposure to intimate partner aggression (IPA) committed between parents in a sample of college students. Although IPA among parents does not directly involve children, children frequently see or are exposed to IPA first-hand when it occurs. This exposure to IPA increases risks for psychopathology and emotional or behavioral difficulties for children or adolescents later in life. However, research has not yet examined the stress response patterns of individuals exposed to IPA, nor how reactivity to stress may be altered based on this exposure. Participants included 161 college students who completed questionnaires assessing demographics, mental health, and exposure to IPA, and also reported on family functioning and parental drinking habits. Additionally, participants completed a three-minute mirror tracing task followed by a three-minute recovery period while SCL was monitored. Multilevel modeling was used to assess whether frequency or level of exposure to IPA was related to trajectories of SCL. Neither variable was related to SCL trajectories during the mirror-tracing task. However, both frequency and level of exposure were related to SCL trajectories during the recovery period, such that for participants reporting higher levels of either IPA exposure variable, SCL trajectories during recovery declined less rapidly and did not decline to as low of a level compared to participants reporting lower levels of IPA exposure. This blunted SCL recovery may be due to wear and tear from repeated innervation, or a calibrating of the SCL response to adapt to a volatile home environment.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13968
JournalPsychophysiology
Volume59
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This project was not funded by any specific grant or institution

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Society for Psychophysiological Research.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience (all)
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Neurology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Biological Psychiatry

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