Date of Award

2018

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Dianna Murray-Close

Abstract

Social dominance is an inherent component of human social organization (Hawley, 1999, Ryff & Singer, 2000; Uchino, Cacioppo, & Kiecolt-Glaser, 1996). Some behaviors typically associated with gaining dominance (e.g., bullying, aggression), have been linked with maladaptive outcomes (Hawley, 2016). However, Resource Control Theory (RCT) highlights the adaptive role of the prosocial (e.g., sharing, cooperating) and the coercive (e.g., taking, threatening) strategies that youth use to gain resources within their peer group (Hawley, 2003a). These behaviors may have important implications for individuals’ physiological stress reactivity, particularly during middle childhood when youth are undergoing rapid cognitive and social development (Parker et al., 2006). The overall goal of the current study was to examine whether patterns of prosocial and coercive resource control strategy use were associated with autonomic nervous system reactivity in a sample of 9-12 year old children. Specifically, this study used person-centered analyses to investigate whether membership in groups based on resource control strategy use was associated with measures of autonomic nervous system reactivity (i.e., skin conductance [SCL-R], heart rate [HR-R], and systolic and diastolic blood pressure [SBP-R, DBP-R, respectively]). This study also utilized variable-centered analyses to investigate whether coercive resource control strategies were associated with these measures of autonomic nervous system reactivity, and whether this relationship was moderated by prosocial resource control strategies. This study also investigated whether these associations were present in the context of social and non-social stressor tasks.

One hundred children (50% female, Mage = 10.47 years) and one of their parents participated in the current study and were recruited from the community in a small northeastern city. Participants’ SCL-R, HR-R, SBP-R, and DBP-R were assessed using a stress protocol during which they discussed an experience of relational victimization (e.g., being left out), played an online ball-tossing game designed to mimic social exclusion experiences, and completed a mirror-tracing task. Levels of prosocial and coercive resource control strategy use were gathered using parent report.

Findings suggested that, during the discussion of a relational victimization experience, the association between coercive control strategies and HR-R was moderated by prosocial control strategies. Specifically, for those low in prosocial control strategies, lower coercive control strategies were associated with increased HR-R. In contrast, in the context of the online ball-tossing game, the associations between coercive control strategies and both SBP-R and DBP-R, respectively, were moderated by prosocial control strategies. Specifically, for those low in prosocial control strategies, higher coercive control strategies were associated with both increased SBP-R and DBP-R. No other outcome measures were associated with main effects of resource control strategies or an interaction between coercive and prosocial control strategies. These patterns suggest that resource control strategy use may be differentially related to HR-R and blood pressure reactivity. Additionally, this pattern may have resulted from differences in the characteristics of the social stressor tasks. Though more research is needed, this study provides the first step in investigating the associations between resource control strategies and long-term physical health in children. This may have important implications for the development of intervention and prevention programs that will help improve the physical health of youth.

Language

en

Number of Pages

116 p.

Available for download on Monday, March 16, 2020

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