Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review

, Volume 13, Issue 4, pp 315-332

First online:

Is There Room for ‘Development’ in Developmental Models of Information Processing Biases to Threat in Children and Adolescents?

  • Andy P. FieldAffiliated withSchool of Psychology, University of Sussex Email author 
  • , Kathryn J. LesterAffiliated withSchool of Psychology, University of Sussex

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Clinical and experimental theories assume that processing biases in attention and interpretation are a causal mechanism through which anxiety develops. Despite growing evidence that these processing biases are present in children and, therefore, develop long before adulthood, these theories ignore the potential role of child development. This review attempts to place information processing biases within a theoretical developmental framework. We consider whether child development has no impact on information processing biases to threat (integral bias model), or whether child development influences information processing biases and if so whether it does so by moderating the expression of an existing bias (moderation model) or by affecting the acquisition of a bias (acquisition model). We examine the extent to which these models fit with existing theory and research evidence and outline some methodological issues that need to be considered when drawing conclusions about the potential role of child development in the information processing of threat stimuli. Finally, we speculate about the developmental processes that might be important to consider in future research.


Anxiety Information processing biases Child development