© 2015 Elsevier Inc. Although clinical observations suggest that youth with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) are unable to down-regulate physiological fear responses in innocuous situations, to date no studies have directly addressed this question. In this report we lay the groundwork for future investigation of the emotion regulation processes of youth with obsessive compulsive (OC) symptoms. Using a non-clinical community sample of school-aged children, we evaluated the association between parent-reported child OC symptoms and children's startle responses to experimental conditions with differing levels of threat. Children with higher OC symptoms evidenced signs of context insensitivity in their startle response and greater subjective distress. Specifically, greater OC symptoms were associated with higher startle magnitude during baseline and safe conditions, but lower startle magnitude during threat. Our findings have important implications for the conceptualization and assessment of emotion regulation difficulties among children displaying OC symptoms.