Threat-Based Childhood Trauma is Associated with Blunted Heart Rate Reactivity to an Acute Cognitive Stress Task
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Research indicates a relationship between childhood trauma and adverse health outcomes in adulthood. Changes in the stress reactivity pathway may mediate this relationship. However, the exact nature of the relationship between childhood trauma and acute stress reactivity remains ambiguous. Categorizing trauma into different dimensions or types might clarify these findings. In the Threat-Deprivation model, proposed by Drs. Sheridan and McLaughlin, trauma is categorized based on the dimensions of threat and deprivation. This study sought to determine the association between threat-based and deprivation-based trauma and cardiovascular and psychological reactivity to an acute stressor. Participants’ (N= 459, Mean age (SD) = 19.53 (0.80), 68.1% female, 64.7% Caucasian, 81.9% non-Hispanic) heart rate, systolic blood pressure, and diastolic blood pressure were taken periodically during a ten-minute baseline and a four-minute Paced Auditory Serial Addition Task (PASAT). Measures of cognitive and somatic impairment and intensity were also taken before the task. Of the associations examined, the only significant relationship was between threat-based trauma and blunted heart rate reactivity (𝛽 = -.096, t = -1.994, p = .047, CI: [-.320, -.002]). All other p-values were larger than 0.05. These findings indicate that threat-based and deprivation-based childhood trauma have distinct relationships with acute stress reactivity.