||Heart rate (variability) and the association between relational peer
victimization and internalizing symptoms in elementary
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||Development and Psychopathology
||Department of Clinical, Neuro- and Developmental Psychology, Amsterdam Public Health Research Institute, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Amsterdam,
||autonomic nervous system, children, internalizing symptoms, relational victimization
||Relational victimization typically emerges first during the elementary school period, and has been associated with increased levels of internalizing
symptoms in children. Individual differences in autonomic nervous system functioning have been suggested as a potential factor
linking social stressors and internalizing symptoms. The aim of this study was therefore to examine whether heart rate and heart rate variability
mediated the association between relational victimization and internalizing symptoms in 373 mainstream elementary school children.
Children were assessed in 2015 (T0; Grades 3–5, M age = 9.78 years, 51% boys) and reassessed in 2016 (T1). Heart rate and heart rate
variability were assessed during a regular school day at T1. A multi-informant (teacher and peer report) cross-time measure of relational
victimization, and a multi-informant (self- and teacher report) measure of internalizing problems at T1 was used. Results showed that heart
rate variability, but not heart rate, mediated the association between relational victimization and internalizing symptoms. This study provides
tentative support that in children from a general population sample, a psychobiological factor may mediate the association of relational
victimization with internalizing symptoms.