Heart rate (variability) and the association between relational peer victimization and internalizing symptoms in elementary school children

Pia Behnsen, Joanne Marieke Buil, Susanne Koot, Anja Huizink, Pol Van Lier

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Relational victimization typically emerges first during the elementary school period, and has been associated with increased levels of internalizing symptoms in children. Individual differences in autonomic nervous system functioning have been suggested as a potential factor linking social stressors and internalizing symptoms. The aim of this study was therefore to examine whether heart rate and heart rate variability mediated the association between relational victimization and internalizing symptoms in 373 mainstream elementary school children. Children were assessed in 2015 (T 0 ; Grades 3–5, M age = 9.78 years, 51% boys) and reassessed in 2016 (T 1 ). Heart rate and heart rate variability were assessed during a regular school day at T 1 . A multi-informant (teacher and peer report) cross-time measure of relational victimization, and a multi-informant (self- and teacher report) measure of internalizing problems at T 1 was used. Results showed that heart rate variability, but not heart rate, mediated the association between relational victimization and internalizing symptoms. This study provides tentative support that in children from a general population sample, a psychobiological factor may mediate the association of relational victimization with internalizing symptoms.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)521-529
Number of pages9
JournalDevelopment and Psychopathology
Volume32
Issue number2
Early online date29 Apr 2019
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2020

Keywords

  • autonomic nervous system
  • children
  • internalizing symptoms
  • relational victimization

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