Infant and Child Development

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Volume 21 Issue 3 (May/June 2012), Pages 1-324

Social Anxiety and Content Specificity of Interpretation and Judgemental Bias in Children (pages 298-309)

Previous research with adult samples has demonstrated that social anxiety disorder is associated with content‐specific interpretation and judgemental biases. The present study extends our understanding of the specificity of cognitive biases in childhood social anxiety. A sample of non‐clinical children aged 11–12 years completed social anxiety and depression scales and was presented with scenarios depicting hypothetical events varying along two dimensions: relevance to self (event occurs to self or to other) and domain of activity (event is social or non‐social). Partial support for the content‐specificity hypothesis was found. Children's social anxiety symptoms were positively associated with negative interpretation ratings for ambiguous self‐referent and other‐referent events, but only when these events were in the social domain. Further, children's social anxiety symptoms were positively associated with emotional cost judgements for ambiguous social and non‐social events, but only when these events referred to the self. Both patterns of results remained significant even after controlling for concurrent depressive symptoms. Implications of the results for our understanding of maintaining factors in childhood social anxiety are discussed. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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