Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Abused Children Stay Highly Attuned To Anger

Date:
September 14, 2005
Source:
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Summary:
Even the subtlest hints of anger or hostility in their environment sets physically abused children on prolonged 'alert', even if a conflict has nothing to do with them.

MADISON - Even the subtlest hints of anger or hostility in theirenvironment sets physically abused children on prolonged 'alert', evenif a conflict has nothing to do with them.

The tendency to stay attentive of nearby discord is probably a naturalform of self-preservation in children who routinely face aggression.But it may also explain why abused children are often so distracted atschool, write researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, inthe journal Child Development (September 14, 2005).

Led by Seth Pollak, a professor of psychology, psychiatry andpediatrics, the UW-Madison team tracked biological markers in 11 abusedfour and five-year olds who play a computer game in one room whensuddenly a clearly audible, heated argument erupts between studentsnext door.

Unbeknownst to the children, the "argument"- over an incompletehomework assignment - was actually a scripted dialogue performed by twoactors.

Both abused and non-abused children initially displayed signs ofemotional arousal-such as sweaty palms and decelerated heart rates--inreaction to the angry voices in the next room. Heart rates oftendecelerate prior to a "fight or flight" response, says Pollak, who isalso a researcher at the UW-Madison Waisman Center for HumanDevelopment.

But though heart rates of non-abused subjects soon rose back to normallevels, heart rates in the abused group remained low-the abusedchildren could not completely break their attention away from thenext-door argument, even when it ended peacefully.

"What's really interesting about this experiment is that theabused children were taking their attention resources and redeployingthem into something that had nothing to do with the children at all,"says Pollak. "That provides an important clue about why these childrenare having interpersonal problems."

The UW-Madison work builds on past experiments in which Pollak hasaimed to understand the developmental mechanisms that may lead abusevictims to adopt unhealthy behaviors later in life, such as aggression,social anxiety and addictions. "Several psychologists had put forwardsome very sophisticated theories about the outcomes of child abuse butno one had offered any brain-based cognitive models to explain whythose outcomes occur," Pollak says.

Consequently, in 1999, Pollak showed that electrical brain activityspikes dramatically when abused children view digital images of angryfaces. That result was not too surprising, he says. "Obviously, abusedchildren's brains are doing exactly what they should be doing - theyare learning to cope with their situation."

The latest work explores whether abused children react similarly toanger in real life situations, or in this case, experimentalsimulations of the real world. Pollak says the next step will be todiscern exactly which neural systems and brain regions are mostaffected after physical abuse. "Knowing this specificity could help usfigure out ways to eventually intervene in tailored ways."

###

Other study co-authors included undergraduate student Shira Verdi (nowa UW-Madison graduate student in social work), psychology researchspecialist Anna Bechner and assistant professor of psychology JohnCurtin.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Wisconsin-Madison. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Wisconsin-Madison. "Abused Children Stay Highly Attuned To Anger." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 September 2005. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/09/050914085444.htm>.
University of Wisconsin-Madison. (2005, September 14). Abused Children Stay Highly Attuned To Anger. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/09/050914085444.htm
University of Wisconsin-Madison. "Abused Children Stay Highly Attuned To Anger." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/09/050914085444.htm (accessed July 23, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Idaho Boy Helps Brother With Disabilities Complete Triathlon

Idaho Boy Helps Brother With Disabilities Complete Triathlon

Newsy (July 23, 2014) An 8-year-old boy helped his younger brother, who has a rare genetic condition that's confined him to a wheelchair, finish a triathlon. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Thousands Who Can't Afford Medical Care Flock to Free US Clinic

Thousands Who Can't Afford Medical Care Flock to Free US Clinic

AFP (July 23, 2014) America may be the world’s richest country, but in terms of healthcare, the World Health Organisation ranks it 37th. Thousands turned out for a free clinic run by "Remote Area Medical" with a visit from the Governor of Virginia. Duration: 2:40 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Stone Fruit Listeria Scare Causes Sweeping Recall

Stone Fruit Listeria Scare Causes Sweeping Recall

Newsy (July 22, 2014) The Wawona Packing Company has issued a voluntary recall on the stone fruit it distributes due to a possible Listeria outbreak. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Huge Schizophrenia Study Finds Dozens Of New Genetic Causes

Huge Schizophrenia Study Finds Dozens Of New Genetic Causes

Newsy (July 22, 2014) The 83 new genetic markers could open dozens of new avenues for schizophrenia treatment research. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins