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Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

, Volume 39, Issue 5, pp 735–747 | Cite as

Behavioral Inhibition and Anxiety: The Moderating Roles of Inhibitory Control and Attention Shifting

  • Lauren K. WhiteEmail author
  • Jennifer Martin McDermott
  • Kathryn A. Degnan
  • Heather A. Henderson
  • Nathan A. Fox
Article

Abstract

Behavioral inhibition (BI), a temperament identified in early childhood, is associated with social reticence in childhood and an increased risk for anxiety problems in adolescence and adulthood. However, not all behaviorally inhibited children remain reticent or develop an anxiety disorder. One possible mechanism accounting for the variability in the developmental trajectories of BI is a child’s ability to successfully recruit cognitive processes involved in the regulation of negative reactivity. However, separate cognitive processes may differentially moderate the association between BI and later anxiety problems. The goal of the current study was to examine how two cognitive processes—attention shifting and inhibitory control—laboratory assessed at 48 months of age moderated the association between 24-month BI and anxiety symptoms in the preschool years. Results revealed that high levels of attention shifting decreased the risk for anxiety problems in children with high levels of BI, whereas high levels of inhibitory control increased this risk for anxiety symptoms. These findings suggest that different cognitive processes may influence relative levels of risk or adaptation depending upon a child’s temperamental reactivity.

Keywords

Behavioral inhibition Inhibitory control Attention shifting Anxiety 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lauren K. White
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jennifer Martin McDermott
    • 2
  • Kathryn A. Degnan
    • 1
  • Heather A. Henderson
    • 3
  • Nathan A. Fox
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Human DevelopmentUniversity of MarylandCollege ParkUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of MassachusettsAmherstUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyUniversity of MiamiMiamiUSA

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