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Reduced electrodermal fear conditioning from ages 3 to 8 years is associated with aggressive behaviour at age 8 years. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 51, 550-558

Department of Criminology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6286, USA.
Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry (Impact Factor: 5.67). 09/2009; 51(5):550-8. DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-7610.2009.02176.x
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Poor fear conditioning characterizes adult psychopathy and criminality, but it is not known whether it is related to aggressive/antisocial behavior in early childhood.
Using a differential, partial reinforcement conditioning paradigm, electrodermal activity was recorded from 200 male and female children at ages 3, 4, 5, 6, and 8 years. Antisocial/aggressive and hyperactive-inattentive measures were collected at age 8.
Poor electrodermal fear conditioning from ages 3 to 8 years was associated with aggressive behavior at age 8 in both males and females.
Results indicate that the relationship between poor fear conditioning and aggression occurs early in childhood. Enhanced electrodermal fear conditioning may protect children against future aggressive/violent behavior. Abnormal amygdala functioning, as indirectly assessed by fear conditioning, may be one of the factors influencing the development of childhood aggression.

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