Latent profiles of children’s autonomic nervous system reactivity early in life predict later externalizing problems

Danielle Roubinov, Jenn Yun Tein, Katherine Kogut, Robert Gunier, Brenda Eskenazi, Abbey Alkon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Prior researchers have observed relations between children's autonomic nervous system reactivity and externalizing behavior problems, but rarely considers the role of developmentally regulated changes in children's stress response systems. Using growth mixture modeling, the present study derived profiles of parasympathetic nervous system reactivity (as indicated by respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA)) and sympathetic nervous system reactivity (as indicated by pre-ejection period (PEP)) from low income, primarily Mexican American children measured repeatedly from infancy through age 5 (N = 383) and investigated whether profiles were associated with externalizing problems at age 7. Analyses identified two profiles of RSA reactivity (reactive decreasing and U-shaped reactivity) and three profiles of PEP reactivity (blunted/anticipatory reactivity, reactive decreasing, non-reactive increasing). Compared to children with an RSA profile of reactive decreasing, those with an RSA profile of U-shaped reactivity had marginally higher externalizing problems, however, this difference was not statistically significant. Children who demonstrated a profile of blunted/anticipatory PEP reactivity had significantly higher externalizing problems compared to those with a profile of non-reactive increasing, likely related to the predominantly male composition of the former profile and predominantly female composition of the latter profile. Findings contribute to our understanding of developmental trajectories of ANS reactivity and highlight the utility of a longitudinal framework for understanding the effects of physiological risk factors on later behavior problems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1177-1189
Number of pages13
JournalDevelopmental psychobiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jul 2021


  • autonomic nervous system
  • early childhood
  • externalizing problems
  • growth mixture modeling
  • physiological reactivity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Developmental Biology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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