Category: Child / Adolescent - Anxiety

PS11- #B36 - Reliability of Attentional Threat Indices and Attentional Control in Children and Adolescents With Anxiety Disorders

Saturday, Nov 18
12:15 PM – 1:15 PM
Location: Indigo Ballroom CDGH, Level 2, Indigo Level

Keywords: Adolescent Anxiety | Child Anxiety | Attention

The attentional threat bias index measured by the dot probe task has been widely used for over a decade in anxious and non-anxious samples of youths and adults; however, growing evidence indicates poor reliability of the attentional threat bias index. Recent departures from the conceptualization of attentional threat bias as a static construct include development of a trial-level bias score (TL-BS) to account for variability in expression of attentional bias over time using data from the dot probe task (Zvielli, Bernstein, & Koster, 2014). The TL-BS method calculates multiple, sequential attentional threat bias scores using difference scores from temporally contiguous pairs of individual incongruent and congruent trials. Initial findings support the ability of TL-BS scores to discriminate between spider-phobic adults and healthy controls. We are not aware of studies reporting on reliability of the TL-BS index in referred samples. The present study therefore examined the test-retest reliability of TL-BS indices for the dot probe task and associations with self-reported attentional control among youth referred to a clinic for excessive fear and anxiety.

Youth (N = 126; ages 6-17) seeking services at an anxiety disorders clinic completed the dot probe task at two waves, 8 days apart on average. Scores for TL-BS indices were computed at each wave. The Attentional Control Scale for Children (ACS-C) was completed at the first session.

Test-retest reliability was significant across all five parameters of TL-BS: mean TL-BS toward threat (r = .63, p < .01), mean TL-BS away from threat (r = .48, p < .01), peak TL-BS toward threat (r = .37, p < .01), peak TL-BS away from threat (r = .38, p < .01), and TL-BS variability (r = .61, p < .01). The total scale of the ACS-C was significantly correlated with TL-BS mean toward threat (r = -.28, p < .01), TL-BS mean away from threat (r = .25, p < .01), and TL-BS variability (r = -.27, p < .01). The Shifting subscale but not the Focusing subscale was also significantly correlated with TL-BS mean toward threat (r = -.32, p < .01), TL-BS mean away from threat (r = .27, p < .01), and TL-BS variability (r = -.30, p < .01).

The present findings indicate good test-retest reliability of the TL-BS indices. Further, associations with the ACS-C indicate that youth with better attentional control, particularly better attentional shifting, demonstrated more attention away from threat and lower variability across TL-BS parameters. Future research is encouraged to use TL-BS data from the dot probe task and to examine concurrent validity of TL-BS parameters with measures of anxiety.

Raquel Melendez

Florida International University
Miami, Florida

Michele Bechor

Florida International University

Victor Buitron

Florida International University

Yasmin Rey

Florida International University

Jeremy W. Pettit

Professor and ABCT Ambassador
Florida International University
Miami, Florida

Wendy Silverman

Alfred A. Messer Professor of Child Psychiatry, Professor of Psychology and Director
Yale University and Child Study Center Program for Anxiety Disorders, USA
New Haven, Connecticut