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Thirty-Third Annual Meeting of the Society for Research in Psychopathology

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158. Personality pathology disrupts phasic electrodermal activity in romantic couples

Personality pathology is associated with interpersonal dysfunction, with particularly negative consequences for romantic relationships. Although intimate partner violence research has examined sympathetic nervous system (SNS) activity in the context of dyadic interactions, less is known about the role of the SNS in personality pathology. Here, we sought to characterize the role of SNS dysfunction in contributing to interpersonal dysfunction during a conflict discussion. We hypothesized that patients with personality pathology would experience smaller changes in phasic electrodermal activity and less reactivity to interpersonal events. Participants were 119 romantic couples oversampled for personality pathology who discussed an area of disagreement for 10 minutes while electrodermal activity and behavior were recorded. We used Psycho-Physiological Modelling (PsPM) to characterize skin conductance responses (SCRs) to video-coded interpersonal behaviors. In Actor-Partner Interdependence Modeling of SCRs, we found that interpersonal problem severity in one member of the couple attenuated the relationship between the other member’s nice behavior on their own SCRs (p = .012). Moreover, greater interpersonal problems in oneself were associated with weaker physiological responses to partners’ nasty behaviors (p = .005). Altogether, these findings support the notion that individuals with more personality pathology experience weaker SNS reactivity to interpersonal events during a conflict.

Melanie Glatz
The Pennsylvania State University

Alison Schreiber
The Pennsylvania State University

Stephanie Stepp
University of Pittsburgh

Paul Pilkonis
University of Pittsburgh

Michael Hallquist
The Pennsylvania State University


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