Category: Child / Adolescent - Anxiety
Introduction: Children with (vs. without) anxiety disorders are more likely to interpret ambiguous or neutral information in a threatening manner. Cognitive distortions such as these contribute to the maintenance of anxiety symptomology, yet little research has investigated underlying mechanisms that may further explicate this relationship. Temperament-related factors, such as inhibitory control (one’s ability to inhibit or delay a prepotent response in favor of a novel response), offer a possible avenue for investigation, as greater inhibitory control may “slow down” automatic, biased thoughts. The present study examines associations between cognitive distortions, anxiety symptom severity, and inhibitory control in a diverse sample of anxious youth. Method: Children with anxiety disorders ages 8-12 (N=63; Mage= 9.87 years, SD=1.28; 62% female) completed a diagnostic interview (MINI Kid; Sheehan et al., 1998) and a test battery, including the Revised Child Anxiety and Depression Scale (RCADS; Chorpita et al., 2000), the Early Adolescent Temperament Questionnaire- Revised (EATQ-R; Ellis & Rothbart, 2001) and the Children’s Negative Cognitive Errors Questionnaire (CNCEQ; Leitenberg et al., 1986). Results: Hayes’ (2012) PROCESS modeling was used to examine the moderating effect of inhibitory control on the relationship between cognitive distortions and anxiety symptom severity. The overall model was significant, F (3, 59) = 15.79, p < .001. The interaction between cognitive distortions and inhibitory control was also significant, B = -.40, p = .045; ∆R2 = .04. Simple slopes revealed significant associations between child cognitive distortions and inhibitory control on child anxiety (p < .000) for children with low inhibitory control. Among children with high inhibitory control, child cognitive distortions and child anxiety were not related. Discussion: Results indicate that there is a significant positive relationship between children’s cognitive distortions and anxiety symptom severity for children with low, but not high, inhibitory control. High inhibitory control may be a protective factor against automatic cognitive distortions among children with anxiety disorders. Specifically, higher levels of inhibitory control may allow children to regulate cognitive distortions and engage in more strategic and realistic assessments of ambiguous situations.