Behavioral and Cardiovascular Markers of Emotion Reactivity During Middle Childhood

Open Access
Dribin, Amy Elizabeth
Graduate Program:
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
March 18, 2009
Committee Members:
  • Kristin Buss, Thesis Advisor
  • middle childhood
  • emotion development
  • cardiovascular reactivity
Cumulating evidence has demonstrated that temperamentally based, individual differences in emotion reactivity, particularly in reactivity associated with fear and with high-intensity pleasure, are related to important developmental outcomes. Despite their importance, it is not well understood how two components of emotion reactivity - cardiovascular reactivity and behavioral displays of emotion - are related in middle childhood. The present study examined associations between cardiovascular reactivity and children’s displays of fear and high-intensity pleasure in a typically developing sample (mean = 7.91, 47.6% female). RSA suppression and autonomic profiles characterized by RSA suppression were more common in the fear task than in the high-intensity pleasure task. Cardiovascular reactivity was not predictive of fear. Children who showed the autonomic profile of Reciprocal SNS activation displayed more pleasure than children with the profile of Reciprocal PNS activation. This is one of the first studies to document associations between cardiovascular reactivity and children’s display of a positive emotion. Further, this study also demonstrated the utility of using autonomic profiles to understand links between behavioral and physiological markers of emotion reactivity.