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Study Reports Infant Sweating Could Be Linked to Aggressive Behaviors

Update Date: Apr 24, 2013 01:44 PM EDT

Although sweating is a natural human response, studies into the different levels of sweating have suggested that sweating can indicate different kinds of emotions. For example, people who are anxious or nervous in a particular situation might start to sweat more than usual. In a new study, researchers looked at the role of sweating in infants. The researchers from Cardiff University in the United Kingdom discovered that infants who sweat less when exposed to scary situations tended to be more physically and verbally aggressive by the age of three.

The research team, headed by Stephanie van Goozen, knew that different levels of sweat, measured by skin conductance activity (SCA) have been linked to aggressive behavior in both children and adolescents. Based from this understanding, the researchers wanted to test whether or not low levels of sweating could be linked to the lack of emotional responses to scary events as early as infancy. The fact that certain children do not sweat in scary situations could indicate that these toddlers might become more antisocial as they age. In order to test this hypothesis, the researchers measured the SCA levels of one-year-old infants using electrodes that were attached to the infants' feet. The infants' SCA levels were recorded when the infants were at rest, exposed to a loud noise and presented with a scary looking moving robot. These infants were followed up at age three and measured for their levels of aggressiveness, which was rated by mothers.

The researchers discovered that infants with lower SCA levels when they were resting and when they were with the remote-controlled robot tended to be more physically and verbally aggressive. The researchers also looked at the infants' temperaments at age one that were reported by the mothers and found that this factor did not contribute to aggression at age three.

"These findings show that it is possible to identify at-risk children long before problematic behavior is readily observable," van Goozen stated. "Identifying precursors of disorder in the context of typical development can inform the implementation of effective prevention programs and ultimately reduce the psychological and economic costs of antisocial behavior to society."

The study was published in the journal, Association for Psychological Sciences

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