Arousal, Affect, Coping and Defending and Delinquency

Hans Steiner, Stanford University School of Medicine
Miriam Gschwendt, Stanford University School of Medicine
Stephanie R. Hawkins, Stanford University School of Medicine
Rudy Haapanen, California Youth Authority

This presentation will focus on the role of arousal, as measured by testing heart rate, and heart rate in response to a standardized challenge, along with self reported affective arousal as a function of baseline personality characteristics coping and defending, distress and restraint. Arousal and affect have special roles in predicting persistence of aggression and delinquency. One-hundred thirty-three non-clinical subjects were studied under standardized conditions. The task produced differential effects by gender and on the two arousal subsystems: heart rate was more likely to get activated by unstructured tasks, especially in males. Affect, especially negative affect, was more likely to be activated by tasks involving the recounting of stressful events. In girls, there was considerable congruence between affective and heart rate arousal, whereas, in boys, there was discontinuity. The examination of the same associations in subjects with predelinquent characteristics produced more pronounced results. We will discuss the implications for the etiology of delinquency and related psychopathology.

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Updated 05/20/2006