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01-08-2011 | Uitgave 6/2011

Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology 6/2011

Attention Biases to Threat Link Behavioral Inhibition to Social Withdrawal over Time in Very Young Children

Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology > Uitgave 6/2011
Koraly Pérez-Edgar, Bethany C. Reeb-Sutherland, Jennifer Martin McDermott, Lauren K. White, Heather A. Henderson, Kathryn A. Degnan, Amie A. Hane, Daniel S. Pine, Nathan A. Fox
Belangrijke opmerkingen
The authors would like to thank the many individuals who contributed to the longitudinal data collection and behavioral coding. We would also like to thank Drs. Karin Mogg and Brendan P. Bradley for advising on the design and implementation of the dot-probe task. Finally, we would especially like to thank the parents of the children who participated and continue to participate in our studies. This research was supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health (HD# 17899) to Nathan A. Fox. Support for manuscript preparation was also provided by a grant from the National Institutes of Health to Koraly Pérez-Edgar (MH# 073569).


Behaviorally inhibited children display a temperamental profile characterized by social withdrawal and anxious behaviors. Previous research, focused largely on adolescents, suggests that attention biases to threat may sustain high levels of behavioral inhibition (BI) over time, helping link early temperament to social outcomes. However, no prior studies examine the association between attention bias and BI before adolescence. The current study examined the interrelations among BI, attention biases to threat, and social withdrawal already manifest in early childhood. Children (N = 187, 83 Male, M age  = 61.96 months) were characterized for BI in toddlerhood (24 & 36 months). At 5 years, they completed an attention bias task and concurrent social withdrawal was measured. As expected, BI in toddlerhood predicted high levels of social withdrawal in early childhood. However, this relation was moderated by attention bias. The BI-withdrawal association was only evident for children who displayed an attention bias toward threat. The data provide further support for models associating attention with socioemotional development and the later emergence of clinical anxiety.

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