ISSN 2043-8087
Journal of Experimental Psychopathology
 Volume 3, Issue 1, 30-41, 2012
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Effects of Age and Anxiety on Processing Threat Cues in Healthy Children

Authors
Reinholdt-Dunne, M. L. (a)(b), Mogg, K. (a), Esbjorn, B. H. (b), & Bradley, B. P. (a)
(a) School of Psychology, University of Southampton, Southampton, SO17 1BJ, UK
(b) Department of Psychology, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, DK-1353, Denmark

Volume 3, Issue 1, 2012, Pages 30-41
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5127/jep.019611

Abstract
This study investigated relationships between childhood anxiety, chronological age, and threat processing biases. It used a cross-sectional design comparing younger and older children, separated using a median-split on trait anxiety scores into low-anxious versus moderately-anxious groups. Participants were 67 schoolchildren, aged 7-14 years, who completed emotional Stroop and visual probe tasks with angry, happy, and neutral faces. Results from both tasks showed (i) a main effect of age on emotion processing, i.e., increased bias for emotional relative to neutral faces in younger than older children, and (ii) a moderating effect of age on anxiety-related bias for threat. That is, on the modified Stroop task, an enhanced processing bias for angry faces, relative to neutral faces, was found only in the group of moderately-anxious younger children. This bias appeared to be specific to angry faces, as it was not found for happy faces. On the visual probe task, moderately-anxious younger children also showed an enhanced attentional bias for angry faces, relative to neutral faces; in addition, they also showed a similar bias for happy relative to neutral faces. Taken together, findings suggest that moderately-anxious younger children show enhanced processing of threat, relative to neutral information, and that this anxiety-related threat bias lessens with age.

Table of Contents
Introduction
Method
Participants
Stimulus Materials and Procedure
Data Preparation and analyses
Results
Group characteristics
Emotional Stroop task
Visual probe task
Discussion
Acknowledgements
References

Correspondence to
Marie Louise Reinholdt-Dunne, Department of Psychology, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, DK-1353, Denmark.

Keywords
child anxiety; age, visual probe task; emotional Stroop task; emotional faces

Dates
Received 10 Sep 2010; Revised 21 May 2011; Accepted 21 May 2011; In Press 12 Dec 2011







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