Psychiatric Quarterly

, Volume 88, Issue 1, pp 103–114 | Cite as

Physiological Arousal and Juvenile Psychopathy: Is Low Resting Heart Rate Associated with Affective Dimensions?

  • Nicholas Kavish
  • Michael G. Vaughn
  • Eunsoo Cho
  • Amy Barth
  • Brian Boutwell
  • Sharon Vaughn
  • Philip Capin
  • Stephanie Stillman
  • Leticia Martinez


A wealth of past research has examined the relationship between low physiological arousal and violence or antisocial behavior. Relatively little research; however, has examined the relationship between low physiological arousal and psychopathic traits, with even less having been conducted with juveniles. The current study attempts to fill this gap by evaluating juveniles’ physiological arousal using resting heart rate and their levels of psychopathic traits. Results suggest that there is indeed an inverse relationship between resting heart rate and the affective traits of psychopathy (Uncaring, Callousness, and Unemotionality) as well as Thrill or Sensation Seeking in males. No significant relationship was found in females. Implications of the findings as well as study limitations and future directions are discussed.


Low physiological arousal Psychopathy Juveniles Affective traits 



The authors are grateful for support from Department of Education R305F100013 (Dr. Sharon Vaughn) and NIH Grants: K08 HD068545-01A1 (Dr. Barth). The authors are also grateful for support from the Texas Education Agency, Meadows Center for Preventing Educational Risk, the Institute on Educational Sciences Grants (R305F100013, R305A150058, R324A100022 & R324B080008), and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (P50 HD052117).

Complaints with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors have no conflicts of interest to report.

Informed Consent

The institutional review boards of the participating universities approved the conduct of this research, as did the school districts. All study participants provided their informed consent.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nicholas Kavish
    • 1
  • Michael G. Vaughn
    • 2
  • Eunsoo Cho
    • 3
  • Amy Barth
    • 4
  • Brian Boutwell
    • 2
  • Sharon Vaughn
    • 5
  • Philip Capin
    • 3
  • Stephanie Stillman
    • 3
  • Leticia Martinez
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Psychology, College of Arts and SciencesSaint Louis UniversitySt. LouisUSA
  2. 2.School of Social Work and Department of Epidemiology, College for Public Health and Social JusticeSaint Louis UniversitySt.LouisUSA
  3. 3.Meadows Center and Vaughn Gross Center, College of EducationUniversity of Texas at AustinAustinUSA
  4. 4.Department of Special Education, College of EducationUniversity of MissouriColombiaUSA
  5. 5.Department of Special Education, College of EducationUniversity of Texas at AustinAustinUSA

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