Triggering Threat, Drive and Soothing: Differences in HRV patterns between forensic boys and male community adolescents

Triggering Threat, Drive and Soothing: Differences in HRV patterns between forensic boys and male community adolescents

Triggering Threat, Drive and Soothing: Differences in HRV patterns between forensic boys and male community adolescents

Individual presentation16Rúben Sousa, University of Coimbra, Portugal

Room 1CWed 10:45 - 12:15

The capacity for adaptive emotion regulation is paramount in adolescence. The tripartite model of affect regulation proposes the existence of three emotion regulation systems (i.e., Threat, Drive and Soothing), designed for survival. An unbalanced functioning of these systems associates with greater risk for the development of psychopathology, specifically Conduct Disorder (CD). Youths with CD generally develop in hostile environments, present higher levels of negative emotions and display different emotion regulation patterns when compared to their normative peers. On the other hand, heart rate variability (HRV) has been reported as an accurate index of emotion regulation. However, there is no study exploring specific HRV patterns for each system while comparing healthy and disturbed adolescents. This study aimed to explore differences in HRV patterns between community males (n = 97) and male young offenders (n = 99), aged between 14 and 18 years old, when triggering the three emotion regulation systems. Data was collected for resting, reactivity and recovering phases, following a standardized experimental procedure. Results showed that in both samples, the threat and drive systems were associated with decreased HRV. Remarkably, while for community males the soothing system associated with increases in HRV, young offenders displayed decreases in parasympathetic nervous system activity, which seems to mirror threat like physiological responses. These physiological findings suggest that young offenders seem to present an underdeveloped/suppressed soothing system when compared to their normative peers. Following these findings, at the beginning of the psychotherapeutic process, attempts to boost the soothing system of young offenders should be cautious.
Co-author(s): Daniel Rijo, Nicola Petrocchi, Paul Gilbert

Assessment and treatment of young and/or adolescent offenders
adolescence, heart rate variability, male young offenders, tripartite model of affect regulation
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