The Moderating Role of Attention Biases in understanding the link between Behavioral Inhibition and Anxiety

Sara S. Nozadi*, Sonya Troller-Renfree, Lauren K. White, Tahl Frenkel, Kathryn A. Degnan, Yair Bar-Haim, Daniel Pine, Nathan A. Fox

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The current study aimed to extend the results of White et al. (2015) by examining the moderating role of attention biases at age 5 on the relations between Behavioral Inhibition (BI) during toddlerhood and anxiety symptoms at age 10. Children's BI at 2 and 3 years of age was measured using laboratory assessments, and attention bias towards threat was assessed using a dot-probe task at age 5. Latent Class Analysis (LCA) was used to identify the probability for children's membership in an anxiety class, which reflected primary anxiety at age 10 that was not comorbid with symptoms of inattention. Maternal and self-report measures of children's mental health, collected via questionnaires and semi-structured diagnostic interviews, were used as indicators for the LCA. The results revealed that threat-related attention biases moderated the relation between BI and anxiety, such that BI positively predicted the probability of being in the anxiety class only when children had an attention bias towards threat. BI was unrelated to anxiety when children had no attention bias or an attention bias away from threat. These results indicated that attention biases during preschool may differentiate between inhibited children who are at heightened risk for anxiety later in childhood from those who are not. The results are discussed in a framework detailing the role of attention biases in increasing the sensitivity for anxiety-related problems in children who display high levels of BI during early childhood.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)451-465
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychopathology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2016


  • Anxiety
  • Attention Biases
  • Behavioral Inhibition
  • Temperament


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