Family enhancement of cognitive style in anxious and aggressive children

Paula M. Barrett*, Ronald M. Rapee, Mark M. Dadds, Sharon M. Ryan

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    558 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Previous research has shown that anxious adults provide more threat interpretations of ambiguous stimuli than other clinic and nonclinic persons. We were interested in investigating if the same bias occurs in anxious children and how family processes impact on these children's interpretations of ambiguity. Anxious, oppositional, and nonclinical children and their parents were asked separately to interpret and provide plans of action to ambiguous scenarios. Afterwards, Each family was asked to discuss two of these situations as a family and for the child to provide a final response. The results showed that anxious and oppositional children were both more likely to interpret ambiguous scenarios in a threatening manner. However, the two clinic groups differed in that the anxious children predominantly chose avoidant solutions whereas the oppositional children chose aggressive solutions. After family discussions, both the anxious children's avoidant plans of action and the oppositional children's aggressive plans increased. Thus, this study provides the first evidence of family enhancement of avoidant and aggressive responses in children. These results support a model of anxiety that emphasizes the development of an anxious cognitive style in the context of anxiety-supporting family processes.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)187-203
    Number of pages17
    JournalJournal of Abnormal Child Psychology
    Volume24
    Issue number2
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Apr 1996

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