Emotional support during conflict situations elevates blood pressure in African-American boys

Among African-American adolescents, boys who received emotional support had higher blood pressure reactivity than boys who received either problem-solving or no support when dealing with conflict situations, according to scientists at Virginia Commonwealth University.

"African American boys may interpret emotional support as negative because boys are traditionally encouraged to be independent," said Dawn K. Wilson, PhD, head of the study. "They may react to being placed in a dependent position such as having to rely on emotional support during a stressful task. They may also show greater cardiovascular reactivity than females under certain stressful social conditions because of an increased desire to exert effort and demonstrate control."

"An increase in blood pressure in response to stress is associated with an increased risk for developing high blood pressure later in life," said Wilson.

"Boys who are provided with solutions or problem-solving support from parents and peers may feel more competent about dealing with life stressors which may lower their risk for developing hypertension and cardiovascular disease in early adulthood."

"Understanding how to reduce the risk of hypertension in these adolescents is important because African-Americans are almost twice as likely to develop high blood pressure as Caucasians in early adulthood-by 40," said Wilson.

In individual laboratory sessions, confederates who played the roles of parent, teacher, sibling or peer antagonized the 24 girls and 24 boys in the study. As the verbal prodding continued, the participants were asked to come up with feasible solutions to the conflicts at hand, such as talking to a teacher about a bad grade, or confronting a peer who spread bad rumors about the participant1s family.

If an adolescent did not respond within 10 or 15 seconds, another confederate would offer a helpful problem-solving suggestion such as, "You could ask the teacher what to do to

Contact: Dawn K. Wilson, PhD
Center for the Advancement of Health

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