Sympathetic arousal in children with oppositional defiant disorder and its relation to emotional dysregulation

Alessandro Tonacci, Lucia Billeci, Sara Calderoni, Valentina Levantini, Gabriele Masi, Annarita Milone, Simone Pisano, Pietro Muratori

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Emotional dysregulation (ED) is a trans-nosographical condition characterized by mood instability, severe irritability, aggression, temper outburst, and hyper-arousal. Pathophysiology of emotional dysregulation and its potential biomarkers are an emerging field of interest. A Child Behaviour Checklist (CBCL) profile, defined as Dysregulation Profile (DP), has been correlated to ED in youth. We examined the association between the CBCL-DP and indices of sympathetic arousal in children with Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) and healthy controls. Method: The current study sought to compare the arousal level measured via electrodermal activity in response to emotional stimuli in three non-overlapping groups of children: (1) ODD+CBCL-DP (n = 28), (2) ODD without CBCL-DP (n = 35), and (3) typically developing controls (n = 25). Results: Analyses revealed a distinct electrodermal activity profile in the three groups. Specifically, children with ODD+CBCL-DP presented higher levels of sympathetic arousal for anger and sadness stimuli compared to the other two groups. Limitations: The relatively small sample and the lack of assessing causality limit the generalizability of this study which results need to be replicated in larger, different samples. Conclusion: The CBCL-DP was associated to higher levels of arousal for negative emotions, consistently with previous reports in individuals with depression and anxiety. Further work may identify potential longitudinal relationships between this profile and clinical outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)207-213
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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