Serious delinquent behavior, sensation seeking, and electrodermal arousal

Lisa M Gatzke-Kopp, Adrian Raine, Rolf Loeber, Magda Stouthamer-Loeber, Stuart R Steinhauer
Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology 2002, 30 (5): 477-86
Low tonic skin conductance level (SCL) has been related, inconsistently, to both delinquency and sensation-seeking. This study tests the hypothesis that there is an interaction such that high sensation seeking delinquents, in particular, have low SCLs. Participants consisted of 335 boys from the Pittsburgh Youth Study classified as serious delinquents or controls based upon 10 years of prospectively collected self-report delinquency data. Participants' skin conductance was evaluated at age 16 along with several personality and neuropsychological measures. Both delinquency and sensation seeking were characterized by low SCL. However, there was no evidence to suggest that the presence of both of these factors together lead to especially low skin conductance levels. This finding is not explained by differences between the groups on measures of negative emotionality, IQ, socioeconomic status, or impulsivity.

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