Purpose: Autonomic nervous system (ANS) functioning has long been studied in relation to antisocial behaviour, but relevant measures (heart rate, heart rate variability, pre-ejection period, respiration rate) have rarely been considered together. This study investigated the relationship between these measures and antisocial behaviour.
Methods: Using a sample of 1010 youths with (47.8%) and without conduct disorder (52.2%) aged between 9 and 18. years (659 females, 351 males, mean age = 14.2. years, SD = 2.4), principal component analysis (PCA) was applied to various measures of psychopathology and antisocial behavior. Structural equation modelling was performed in order to test whether the ANS measures predicted PCA-dimensions. Cluster analysis was used in order to classify patterns of ANS activity. Analyses were performed separately for males/females and controlled for body-mass-index, age, caffeine use, cigarette smoking, sports, socioeconomic status, medication, cardiac problems.
Results: The PCA yielded three components: antisocial behaviour/comorbid psychopathology, narcissistic traits, and callous-unemotional traits. ANS measures were only weakly correlated with these components. Cluster analysis yielded high and low arousal clusters in both sexes. When controlling for covariates, all associations disappeared.
Conclusion: Our findings suggest that resting ANS measures are only weakly related to antisocial behaviour and indicate that smoking should be considered as an important covariate in future psychophysiological studies.
- Antisocial behaviour
- Autonomic nervous system
- Callous-unemotional traits
- Cluster analysis
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Social Psychology
- Applied Psychology
- Sociology and Political Science