Cognitive Therapy and Research

, Volume 30, Issue 5, pp 531–549 | Cite as

Cognitive Biases in Childhood Anxiety, Depression, and Aggression: Are They Pervasive or Specific?

  • Sophie C. ReidEmail author
  • Karen Salmon
  • Peter F. Lovibond
Original Article


This study investigated the extent to which children’s negative information processing biases are pervasive across the cognitive modalities of attention, judgment, and memory and, further, whether such biases are specifically associated with anxiety, depression, and/or aggression. 133 children between the ages of 8 and 14 years were assessed on an attention allocation task, a vignette interpretation measure, and a memory recall task. Children also completed anxiety and depression inventories, and were rated by teachers on a measure of aggression. Overall the results suggested a predominantly pervasive negative bias associated with childhood psychopathology, with some evidence of specificity. The canonical correlation analyses indicated that high levels of anxiety, depression, and aggression were associated with biases: attention to negative information, interpretation of ambiguous situations as negative, and preferential recall of negative words. Above this general bias, anxiety displayed a specific association with attention to negative information in the univariate analyses.


Cognitive Biases Anxiety Depression Aggression 



We would like to thank the school principals and teachers who generously welcomed our research and the children who volunteered to participate for being so insightful and entertaining. Thanks must also go to those who helped code and collate the data.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sophie C. Reid
    • 2
    Email author
  • Karen Salmon
    • 1
  • Peter F. Lovibond
    • 1
  1. 1.School of PsychologyUniversity of New South WalesSydneyAustralia
  2. 2.Centre for Adolescent HealthMurdoch Childrens Research InstituteVictoriaAustralia

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