The relation between cognitive development and anxiety phenomena in children

Suzanne Broeren*, Peter Muris

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    31 Citations (Scopus)


    We examined the relation between cognitive development and fear, anxiety, and behavioral inhibition in a non-clinical sample of 226 Dutch children aged 4-9 years. To assess cognitive development, children were tested with Piagetian conservation tasks and a Theory-of-Mind (TOM) test. Fears were measured by means of a self-report scale completed by the children, while anxiety symptoms and behavioral inhibition were indexed by rating scales that were filled out by parents. Significant age trends were observed for some anxiety phenomena. For example, younger children displayed higher fear scores, whereas older children exhibited higher levels of generalized anxiety. Most importantly, results of regression analyses (in which we controlled for age) indicated that cognitive development, and in particular TOM ability, made a unique and significant contribution to various domains of behavioral inhibition. In all cases, higher levels of TOM were associated with lower levels of behavioral inhibition. In general, percentages of explained variance were rather small (i.e., <6%), indicating that the role of cognitive development in various anxiety phenomena is limited.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)702-709
    Number of pages8
    JournalJournal of Child and Family Studies
    Issue number6
    Publication statusPublished - Oct 2009


    • Anxiety
    • Behavioral inhibition
    • Children
    • Cognitive development
    • Developmental patterns
    • Fear


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