We tested the hypothesis that lower socioeconomic status (SES) children display heightened cardiovascular reactivity during stressful situations because they are more likely to appraise a wide variety of social situations, including ambiguous ones, as threatening. A sample of 201 children and adolescents, half White and half African American, were assessed initially. Ninety of these children were retested an average of 3 years later. At both time points, children were interviewed about appraisals of hostile intent and feelings of anger in response to scenarios with negative or ambiguous outcomes. Cardiovascular reactivity to 3 laboratory stress tasks was measured. Initially, lower SES was associated with greater hostile intent appraisal and anger during ambiguous scenarios across all participants. In addition, responses to ambiguous scenarios partially mediated the relation between SES and vascular reactivity. Longitudinally, low SES African American participants showed higher mean intensity of hostile intent appraisals during ambiguous scenarios, and these appraisals mediated the SES-reactivity relationship. These findings suggest that the way in which children appraise ambiguous social situations plays an important role in the relation between SES and cardiovascular reactivity.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Psychiatry and Mental health