The relation between scores on the child abuse potential inventory and physiologic and perceptual responses to high- and normal-pitched infant cry sounds

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


Thirty nonparent adults were assigned to either a High CAP group (n=15) or a Low CAP group (n=15) based upon their scores on the Child Abuse Potential Inventory. Each subject's heart rate, skin conductance level and diastolic blood pressure were assessed while listening to a series of 4 high- and 4 normal-pitched infant cries. Subjects then rated the same cries on 6 perceptual scale items. Results indicated that the adults in the High CAP group showed a reliably higher resting heart rate following cry presentation and tended to respond with more heart rate change than adults in the Low CAP group. Adults in the High CAP group also responded to the normal-pitched cries with a higher skin conductance level than the Low CAP adults. Irrespective of CAP group, listeners' skin conductance level became attenuated in response to the normal-, but not the high-pitched infant cry sounds.

In addition, all listeners perceived the high-pitched cry sounds as more aversive, arousing, distressing, urgent and sick sounding than the normal-pitched cry sounds. Results are discussed in terms of the importance of examining both adult and child characteristics that may mediate individual responsivity to infant cues.