Author(s): Barrett PM, Rapee RM, Dadds MM, Ryan SM
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Abstract Previous research has shown that anxious adults provide more threat interpretations of ambiguous stimuli than other clinic and nonclinic persons. We were interested in investigating if the same bias occurs in anxious children and how family processes impact on these children's interpretations of ambiguity. Anxious, oppositional, and nonclinical children and their parents were asked separately to interpret and provide plans of action to ambiguous scenarios. Afterwards, each family was asked to discuss two of these situations as a family and for the child to provide a final response. The results showed that anxious and oppositional children were both more likely to interpret ambiguous scenarios in a threatening manner. However, the two clinic groups differed in that the anxious children predominantly chose avoidant solutions whereas the oppositional children chose aggressive solutions. After family discussions, both the anxious children's avoidant plans of action and the oppositional children's aggressive plans increased. Thus, this study provides the first evidence of family enhancement of avoidant and aggressive responses in children. These results support a model of anxiety that emphasizes the development of an anxious cognitive style in the context of anxiety-supporting family processes.
This article was published in J Abnorm Child Psychol
and referenced in Clinical and Experimental Psychology