Harsh Parenting and Child Externalizing Behavior: Skin Conductance Level Reactivity as a Moderator


  • This research was supported by National Institutes of Health Grant RO1-HD046795 to the second and third authors. We wish to thank participating families and the staff of the Child Development Laboratory for data collection.

concerning this article should be addressed to Stephen Erath, Department of Human Development & Family Studies, 203 Spidle Hall, Auburn University, Auburn, AL 36849. Electronic mail may be sent to sae0001@auburn.edu.


Skin conductance level reactivity (SCLR) was examined as a moderator of the association between harsh parenting and child externalizing behavior. Participants were 251 boys and girls (8–9 years). Mothers and fathers provided reports of harsh parenting and their children’s externalizing behavior; children also provided reports of harsh parenting. SCLR was assessed in response to a socioemotional stress task and a problem-solving challenge task. Regression analyses revealed that the association between harsh parenting and externalizing behavior was stronger among children with lower SCLR, as compared to children with higher SCLR. SCLR may be a more robust moderator among boys compared to girls. Results are discussed with regard to theories on antisocial behavior and multiple-domain models of child development.