We investigated the eyeblink component of acoustic startle reactions in maltreated children. Previous research indicates that acoustic startle is enhanced in adult males with posttraumatic stress disorders (PTSD) whereas findings on women with PTSD have been inconsistent. In accord with the only previous report for children with PTSD, we found that maltreated boys, particularly those who had been physically abused, responded to increases in startle probe loudness with smaller increments in amplitude of startle eyeblink and smaller reductions in blink latency than did comparison boys. Results for girls were inconsistent: younger maltreated girls had smaller startle amplitude and slower onset latency than controls, whereas older maltreated girls exhibited the opposite pattern.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This research was supported by grants MH47333 (RK), MH54643 and the Spunk Fund, Inc. (DC), and AG095247 (JRI). We thank Robert F. Simons for providing a program to score startle responses and Lawrence E. Ota for engineering assistance.
- Acoustic startle
- Physical abuse