Date of Award




Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Department of Psychology


Clinical Psychology

Content Description

1 online resource (iii, 32 pages)

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Elana B. Gordis

Committee Members

Leslie Halpern


harsh parenting, interparental aggression, marital conflict, psychophysiology, skin conductance levels, sympathetic nervous system, Child abuse, Sympathetic nervous system, Galvanic skin response, Autonomic nervous system, Aggressiveness, Parent and child

Subject Categories

Clinical Psychology


The present study examines the link between aggression experienced during childhood and/or adolescence and indicators of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) during adulthood. Participants completed self-report questionnaires regarding interparental aggression and harsh parenting exposure during childhood and adolescence (155 adults; mean age = 19.0 years old; 76.1% Caucasian/white; 53.5% female). SNS activation was measured by resting skin conductance level (SCL). Results of this study indicate a sex-specific and time-specific pattern of the effects of aggression on SNS activity. Among males, exposure to more harsh parenting in addition to more interparental aggression during childhood is associated with lower resting SCL. Among females, exposure to more harsh parenting or more interparental aggression during childhood or adolescence is associated with lower resting SCL. Thus, this study suggests that exposure to stressors during youth is associated with lower levels of SNS activation. Furthermore, this study expands upon previous literature suggesting that exposure to multiple forms of maltreatment may compound the effects of exposure to a single form.