Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Cognitive Neuroscience


Yu Gao

Subject Categories

Other Social and Behavioral Sciences | Social and Behavioral Sciences


Antisocial Behavior, Callous Unemotional Traits, Parent-Child Relationship, Autonomic Nervous System, Resting Heart Rate, Adolescents


An inverse correlation between psychopathic traits and autonomic nervous system responsiveness has been observed in various neuroscience and psychological studies. Past research has suggested that low resting heart rate is a robust biological risk factor for a number of psychopathic traits over the course of an individual’s lifetime. The reason for the link between heart rate and psychopathy is presently unknown, but it has been hypothesized that a number of other social, biological, or psychological factors, including parenting techniques, socioeconomic status, and peer influences, may influence the strength of this relationship. However, further study is needed to examine specific social factors which may be of value in this relationship and which aspects of those relationships, if any might have the most impact on psychopathic traits. The goal of this study is to further explore the possible moderating effect an individual’s relationship quality with parents may have on the relationship between psychopathic traits and resting heart rate in adolescents.Adolescents are a particularly relevant group in which to study this relationship, because research has shown that social relationships during childhood and adolescence have considerable potential to influence the social and behavioral development of an individual. The current study found that neither positive nor negative parent-child relationship qualities moderated the relationship between resting heart rate and callous-unemotional traits in adolescents. However, results did reveal that both resting heart rate and positive parent-child relationship qualities were negatively correlated with callous-unemotional traits in boys, while only positive parent-child relationship was significantly negatively correlated with callous-unemotional traits in girls. Implications of these findings are discussed.