Psychopathy, heart rate, and skin conductance in adolescent offenders

Thumbnail Image
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
University of Alabama Libraries

Recently, researchers have advocated for a greater focus on measuring neurobiological underpinnings of serious behavior problems such as psychopathy. In particular, psychopathy has garnered significant attention for its relationship with physiological processes. Using a sample of adolescent offenders, this study explored the relationship between scores on the Psychopathy Checklist-Youth Version (PCL:YV; Forth, Kosson, & Hare, 2003) and levels of heart rate (HR), Respiratory Sinus Arrhythmia (RSA), and skin conductance (SC) using a white noise stimulus and countdown task. Correlational results indicated a positive, significant association between baseline skin conductance level (SCL) and the PCL:YV Interpersonal Facet and PCL:YV total score. MANCOVA analyses indicated that skin conductance response (SCR) responders during the anticipatory (pre-noise) and reactivity (post-noise) periods had significantly higher PCL:YV Lifestyle/Behavioral (Factor 2) and Lifestyle (Facet 3) scores than those with no SCRs. There were no significant associations between PCL:YV scores and HR activity across baseline, anticipatory, and reactivity periods. Study results suggest some differences in the biological functioning of adolescent offenders with psychopathic traits, but the small sample used in this study may have contributed to insignificant associations. Future directions for research are discussed.

Electronic Thesis or Dissertation