Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Psychology


Clinical Psychology

Content Description

1 online resource (iii, 87 pages) : illustrations.

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Elana Gordis

Committee Members

Leslie F Halpern, Robert A Rosellini


attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, autonomic nervous system, harsh parenting, oppositional defiant disorder, respiratory sinus arrhythmia, skin conductance levels, Autonomic nervous system, Sympathetic nervous system, Parasympathetic nervous system, Child abuse, Parent and child, Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, Oppositional defiant disorder in children

Subject Categories

Biological Psychology | Clinical Psychology | Psychiatry and Psychology


Though literature suggests that many individuals with childhood attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) report having symptoms of the respective disorder as adults, little is known about potential predictors of adulthood externalizing symptoms. The proposed study examines the impact of the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), as measured by respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA), and the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), as measured by skin conductance levels (SCL), on the link between harsh parenting experienced during childhood and ADHD and ODD symptoms during young adulthood. Results yielded a significant two-way interaction between harsh parenting and resting RSA, which significantly accounted for adulthood ODD symptoms, such that at lower values of resting RSA, harsh parenting exposure was associated with more ODD symptoms. Additionally, the two-way interactions between harsh parenting and resting RSA and harsh parenting and resting SCL significantly accounted for adulthood ADHD symptoms, such that at lower values of resting RSA or SCL, harsh parenting exposure was associated with more ADHD symptoms. This study suggests that resting ANS activity may play an important role in the relationship between stressors during childhood and later externalizing symptoms.