Anxiety, Antisocial Behavior, and Heart Rate Regulation in Adolescent Males


Requests for reprints to: Enrico Mezzacappa, MD. The Judge Baker Children's Center. 3 Blackfan Circle, Boston. MA 02115. U.S.A.


We explored relationships between anxiety and antisocial behavior and autonomic heart rate regulation in a homogenous sample (N= 175 (of 15-year-ofd males. Measures for anxiety and antisocial behavior were obtained at yearly intervals over a period of 4–6 years. Components of heart rate variability associated with postural (sympathetic) and respiratory (vagal) change and transfer of respiratory to heart rate variability were estimated an age 15 using Spectral analytic techniques. Anxiety and antisocial behavior were predictably related to enhanced and diminished levels of mean heart rate, respectively. Anxiety was also predictably related to enhanced sympathetic mediation of phasic postural effects on heart rate. Antisocial behavior was unexpectedly related to disruption of vagally mediated, phasic respiratory effects on heart rate. Anxiety and antisocial behavior showed distinct relationships to heart rate, and to the autonomically mediated component, of heart rate variability from postural and respiration sources. Spectral analytic techniques helped elucidate these unique regulator; patterns, suggesting utility for future research in this area.