Threat Perception Bias in Nonreferred, Socially Anxious Children

P.E.H.M. Muris*, H.L.G.J. Merckelbach, E. Damsma

*Corresponding author for this work

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Investigated whether socially anxious children display a threat perception bias. A sample of 252 primary, school children ages 8 to 13 years were exposed to ambiguous stories of social situations and instructed to find out as quickly as possible whether a story was scary. Furthermore, children were invited to tell how each story would end and to judge how they, would feel when actually confronted with that situation. The main results can be summarized as follows. First, socially anxious children displayed lower thresholds for threat perception than control children. In other words, compared with control children, socially? anxious children needed to hear fewer sentences of a story before deciding it was scary. Furthermore, socially anxious children more frequently, perceived threat while listening to the stories than did control children. Finally, socially anxious children move often interpreted the stories as threatening and displayed higher levels of negative feelings and cognitions in relation to these stories compared with control children. These findings fit nicely in current information-processing theories of childhood anxiety. An additional aim of this study was to investigate the convergent validity of the social phobia scales of 2 recently, developed self-report questionnaires for measuring anxiety disorder symptoms in children: the pence Children's Anxiety Scale (Spence, 1998) and the Screen for Child Anxiety. Related Emotional Disorders (Birmaher et al., 1997). Results indicated that the social phobia scale of the Spence Children's Anxiety Scale and the extended social phobia scale of the Screen for Child Anxiety Related Emotional Disorders correlated substantially with a specific measure of social anxiety, the Social Anxiety Scale for Children-Revised.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)348-359
JournalJournal of Clinical Child Psychology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2000

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