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

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

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
Stimulus Materials and Procedure
Data Preparation and analyses
Group characteristics
Emotional Stroop task
Visual probe task

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

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

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

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