06-07-2021 | Original Paper
Theory of Mind, Anxiety, and Interpretive Bias During Middle Childhood
Gepubliceerd in: Journal of Child and Family Studies | Uitgave 1/2022Log in om toegang te krijgen
The developmental trajectory of the anxiety-related interpretive bias (a tendency to inappropriately interpret ambiguous stimuli as threatening) and its precursors is not fully elucidated. In this study we focused on the role of the interpretive theory of mind, relating it to the emergence of the interpretive bias, and to anxiety symptoms during middle childhood. Children aged 9–11 years (N = 86) were presented with 4 vignettes, each containing two parts. The first part assessed the child’s interpretive bias using an ambiguous story paradigm, while the second part measured the interpretive theory of mind with a novel task assessing the understanding of biased social cognition. Parents reported on their children’s theory of mind and anxiety symptoms, while children completed a self-report of the same anxiety measure. Results revealed that overall theory of mind ratings were negatively associated with interpretive bias and anxiety symptoms. Additionally, children with a higher performance on the novel interpretive theory of mind tasks had lower interpretive bias and anxiety symptoms. Children more prone to acknowledging the significance of a character’s biased belief in constructing the character’s interpretation and justification of the ambiguous situation (interpretive theory of mind), as well as those who used the relevant explicit information to construct their interpretation had lower anxiety symptoms, as well as lower scores on the interpretive bias task, than those that did not. Understanding the relationship between theory of mind and information processing biases is paramount for ameliorating early anxiety vulnerability signs during middle childhood.