Adolescent RSA responses during an anger discussion task: Relations to emotion regulation and adjustment

Lixian Cui, Amanda Sheffield Morris, Amanda W. Harrist, Robert E. Larzelere, Michael M. Criss, Benjamin J. Houltberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

83 Scopus citations


The current study examined associations between adolescent respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) during an angry event discussion task and adolescents' emotion regulation and adjustment. Data were collected from 206 adolescents (10-18 years of age, M age = 13.37). Electrocardiogram (ECG) and respiration data were collected from adolescents, and RSA values and respiration rates were computed. Adolescents reported on their own emotion regulation, prosocial behavior, and aggressive behavior. Multilevel latent growth modeling was employed to capture RSA responses across time (i.e., linear and quadratic changes; time course approach), and adolescent emotion regulation and adjustment variables were included in the model to test their links to RSA responses. Results indicated that high RSA baseline was associated with more adolescent prosocial behavior. A pattern of initial RSA decreases (RSA suppression) in response to angry event recall and subsequent RSA increases (RSA rebound) were related to better anger and sadness regulation and more prosocial behavior. However, RSA was not significantly linked to adolescent aggressive behavior. We also compared the time course approach with the conventional linear approach and found that the time course approach provided more meaningful and rich information. The implications of adaptive RSA change patterns are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)360-372
Number of pages13
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2015


  • Aggressive behavior
  • Emotion regulation
  • Prosocial behavior
  • RSA time course
  • Respiratory sinus arrhythmia


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