Parents and teenagers often engage in heated debates and arguments. It is natural for these two figures to have conflicts that increase emotional arousal. Research has shown that more conflict-rooted emotional arousal increases the risk for negative psychological well-being. Additionally, increased emotional arousal can also lead to physical ailments and can predict negative relationship behaviors and make individuals more vulnerable to relationship aggression and violence. There are many different ways to measure emotional arousal, including self-reports and analyzing cortisol levels. In a recent study, Brian R. Baucom of the Department of Psychology at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles chose to use both of these methods to assess emotional arousal in a sample of teens. However, Baucom also measured emotional response based on vocal behavior.
For his study, Baucom assessed 56 adolescents during and after they engaged in verbal conflicts with their parents. Baucom combined the results of a frequency range test with those of the cortisol examinations and self-reports and found that all three were able to capture moments of emotional arousal. The self-reports generated by the teen participants described increases in emotional volatility during and after the conflict. These reports were further supported by elevated cortisol levels and increases in vocal behavior range and frequency.
Overall, Baucom discovered that the teens with the highest levels of cortisol output and negative feelings also had the highest levels of vocal range and frequency. According to Baucom, “Greater cortisol output is significantly associated with a slower time-to-peak of range of fundamental frequency for girls and with significantly less variability in range of fundamental frequency for boys.” He believes these results show that increased emotional arousal can be evidenced through vocal frequencies and ranges as they occur and over time. Because emotional arousal is associated with varying psychological impairments Baucom hopes that the findings from his study will open up the door for further exploration of vocal behaviors in relation to psychological conditions and maladaptive behaviors.
Baucom, B. R., Saxbe, D. E., Ramos, M. C., Spies, L. A., Iturralde, E., Duman, S., et al. (2012). Correlates and Characteristics of Adolescents’ Encoded Emotional Arousal During Family Conflict. Emotion. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0028872
© Copyright 2012 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved.
The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.