Children with asthma have a high prevalence of anxiety disorders, however, very little is known about the mechanisms that confer vulnerability for anxiety in this population. This study investigated whether children with asthma and anxiety disorders display attentional biases towards threatening stimuli, similar to what has been seen in children with anxiety disorders more generally. We also examined the relationships between attentional biases and anxiety symptomatology and asthma control for children with asthma. Ninety-three children, aged 8–13, took part in the study and were recruited into one of four conditions (asthma/anxiety, asthma, anxiety, control). Asthma was medically confirmed and anxiety was assessed through clinical interview. We used self- and parent-report questionnaires to measure child asthma (ATAQ) and anxiety (SCAS, CASI) variables. Participants completed a visual dot-probe task designed to measure attentional bias towards two types of stimuli: asthma related words and general threat words, as well as tasks to assess reading ability and attentional control. Results showed that attentional biases did not differ between the groups, although children with anxiety disorders displayed poorer attentional control. A significant correlation was found between poor asthma control and an attentional bias of asthma stimuli. While we found no evidence that anxiety disorders in children with asthma were associated with threat- or asthma-related attentional biases, preliminary evidence suggested that children with poor asthma control displayed biases towards asthma-specific stimuli. Future research is needed to explore whether these attentional biases are adaptive.
- attentional bias