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Cluster analysis reveals distinct patterns of childhood adversity, behavioral disengagement, and depression that predict blunted heart rate reactivity to acute psychological stress

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posted on 2022-11-04, 11:38 authored by Tracey M. Keogh, Siobhán HowardSiobhán Howard, Stephen GallagherStephen Gallagher, Annie T. Ginty

Background There is considerable evidence documenting associations between early life adversity, behavioral disengagement, and depression with blunted cardiovascular  reactivity to acute psychological stress. However, while  often examined as independent predictors, it is also likely  that a combination of these factors uniquely relate to  cardiovascular reactivity.

Purpose The present study employed multivariate cluster analysis to examine if distinct combinations of these outcomes relate to cardiovascular stress reactivity.

Methods Participants (N  =  467) were predominantly female (60.6%) with a mean age of 19.30  years (SD = 0.82). Measures of early life adversity, behavioral disengagement, and depression were completed; in addition, participants had their blood pressure and heart rate monitored throughout a standardized stress testing session. Cardiovascular reactivity was calculated as the difference between mean stress and mean baseline cardiovascular values. 

Results Analyses revealed two clusters with distinct patterns of exposure to early life adversity, levels of behavioral disengagement and depression, uniquely related to  cardiovascular reactivity. In unadjusted models, Cluster 1 that was characterized by greater exposure to early  life adversity, higher levels of behavioral disengagement  and depression, was associated with lower systolic blood  pressure (SBP), diastolic blood pressure (DBP), and  heart rate (HR) reactivity. Cluster 2 was characterized  by reactivity values similar to the sample means. In fully  adjusted models, Cluster 1 predicted heart rate reactivity  to stress.   

Conclusions The present study identifies a behavioral cluster that is characteristic of a blunted heart rate reactivity profile, significantly extending the research in this area. 





Annals of Behavioural Medicine


Oxford Academic

Other Funding information

Tracey M. Keogh is in receipt of the Irish Research Council Postgraduate Scholarship (GOIPG/2021/1422)

Also affiliated with

  • Health Research Institute (HRI)

Department or School

  • Psychology

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