New research finds that children whose heart rate is less reactive to stress tend to fair better when subjected to bullying, but there are some downsides too. Stress management strategies, such as Heart Rate Variability training, seem able to offer a way forward for the more vulnerable. Here are the details…
In a study conducted with adolescent girls, researchers at Pennsylvania State University have found that heart rate reactivity is a good predictor of whether bullying (peer victimisation) I likely to lead to the internalisation of problems, leading to the development of anxiety and depression.
The research team, led by Karin Machluf and P. Douglas Sellers II, will report their findings in a paper entitled “Adolescent Girls’ Biological Sensitivity to Context: Heart Rate Reactivity Moderates the Relationship Between Peer Victimization and Internalizing Problems,” which is due to be published in the journal Evolutionary Psychological Science.
Essentially, the team found that peer victimization leads to internalising problems in some girls, but not others. Girls whose heart rates are highly reactive to stress are negatively impacted by peer victimisation and develop internalising problems (anxiety/depression), but girls whose heart rates are less reactive do not have those negative outcomes from peer victimisation.
What the team found was that adolescent girls with less reactive heart rates are “buffered” from the negative effect of being victimised.
“There seems to be a biological difference in the way these girls respond to environmental stressors that protects them from the negative impact of this stress,” Sellers said. “The theoretical umbrella under which this falls is called Biological Sensitivity to Context.”
The study subjects were 44 girls, and 38 boys, with an overall average age of 12.08 years. Reactivity is defined as a change in the baseline heart rate to a stressor.
“We measured resting heart rate, then introduced a laboratory stressor (random loud blast of white noise), and then measured how much heart rate changes in response to that stressor, so that it’s a measure of how reactive their heart rate is to stress. Basically, an indicator of stress reactivity,” Sellers explained.
Currently, there are a few different theories about how differences in reactivity occur.
“The one we are supporting (Biological Sensitivity to Context) states that young children’s stress response systems ‘tune’ themselves using the early environment interacting with genetic predisposition,” Sellers stated. “So, it’s both the environment and genetics. Children who end up being highly reactive children respond more to later environmental stressors, for better and for worse — meaning high reactivity can be bad under negative stress, but advantageous under positive stressors.”
The team found that low reactive children are more consistent and are less impacted by later environment, whether that environment is positive or negative.
“A nice analogy is orchids vs. dandelions,” Sellers said. “Orchids are finicky, and highly reactive to the environment. Under poor conditions they fail easily, but under supportive conditions they thrive. These are the highly reactive children.
“Dandelions are much more consistent, they have similar outcomes regardless of conditions. This makes them resilient to negative stress, but less able to take advantage of positive environments. These are the low reactive children,” said Sellers.
The heart rate reactivity is “pretty much involuntary and tuned by an interaction between genetics and early environment,” according to Sellers.
Although children can certainly be taught strategies for how to deal with stress, this work highlights that those interventions are perhaps more valuable for some children (reactive children in negative environments) than others.
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Source Material and Acknowledgements:
The original article for this post was provided to us on 7th November 2018, by Penn State University Press and Media service. The author is Amy Gruzesky. We express our grateful acknowledgement to both the University and Ms Gruzesky. The article has undergone minor editing to reflect our primarily UK and European readership.
If you or anyone you know (child or adult) is trying to deal with ADHD, then it’s likely that they’ve been prescribed medications like Ritalin (Methylphenidate) or amphetamines. However, in common with all pharmaceuticals, these carry side-effects and the likelihood of psychological dependence – when he person begins to feel they simply cannot manage without the drug, and attribute all there successes to the medication; undermining there sense of confidence and self-efficacy in the process. The good news is that, when it comes to ADHD (and ADD), the latest research and developments in biotech mean that effective. non-drug solutions are now available. Take a look at the clip and, if you want to explore more, you can find more details here: https://bit.ly/2BfVzgw
Earlier this week, the world marked Suicide Prevention day, helping to highlight the fact that suicide is now a major killer.
The World Health Organization estimates that over 800,000 people take their own life each year, that’s one person dying every 40 seconds; and up to 25 times as many make a suicide attempt.
Whilst all deaths by suicide are a tragedy, when this involves a younger person, and the loss of unrealised potential, then the death becomes even more poignant.
Suicide is now the biggest killer of young people in the UK and across much of the western hemisphere and there seems no let-up in it’s rise. For instance, one recent study conducted by the Vanderbilt University in the United States and published in the journal Pediatrics, found that the number of school-aged children and adolescents hospitalised for suicidal thoughts or attempts has more than doubled since 2008.
These statistics underline the need for early identification of those at risk, so that they can get the life-saving help they need.
Recognition of the early warning signs that indicate someone is at serious risk suicide is crucial.
Here are some of the key warning signs to look out for:
Talking about suicide, expressing thought about ending one’s life;
Withdrawing from friends and family;
Changes in behaviour at home or school, especially changes in the quality of schoolwork and lower grades;
Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness;
Rebellious or ‘acting-out’ behaviours;
Alcohol or substance abuse;
Previous attempts or experiencing the loss of a friend/family member by suicide increases risk.
Having suicidal thoughts is not a “normal” part of adolescence. If a teenager or young adult that you know has any of these warning signs, and especially if he or she has talked about suicide, then take it seriously and reach out for help.
In the UK, a good starting point is the charity Papyrus, where you can obtain immediate advice on how to help someone you have concerns about. To speak to them call, free, on 0800 068 4141 or visit here:www.papyrus-uk.org
Published by the Health Information Library team at Peak Health Online. To visit our main website, specialising in medication-free solutions for physical & psychological health and peak performance, our home page is here
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