College of Psychology: Faculty Articles

Title

The relationship of childhood worry to cognitive biases: Threat interpretation and likelihood of event occurrence

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2001

Publication Title

Behavior Therapy

ISSN

0005-7894

Volume

32

Issue/No.

3

Abstract

Worry, the cognitive component of anxiety, has been related to cognitive processing biases in adults. However, the relationship of child worry to cognitive biases has been largely unexplored. The present study examined this relationship. Worry in a community sample of 277 5th- and 6th-grade children was assessed with the Penn-State Worry Questionnaire for Children (Chorpita, Tracey, Brown, Collica, & Barlow, 1997). The Children's Opinions of Everyday Life Events (COELE) was designed to measure children's threat interpretation biases. Children's responses to worry-relevant vignettes were used to assess interpretation of ambiguous and threatening situations, degree of perceived threat, degree of situation-specific worry, and perceived likelihood of future occurrence. Results suggested strong relationships between child worry and threat interpretation biases. Compared to nonworriers, worriers interpreted both ambiguous and threatening situations as more threatening, expressed more worry in response to the events, and judged the events to have a higher probability of happening to them in the future. Temporal stability was only moderate, perhaps reflecting worry and cognitive biases as more variable phenomena in a community sample. Theoretical, clinical, and research implications of the findings are discussed.

DOI

10.1016/S0005-7894(01)80029-0