Biased attentional behavior in childhood anxiety: A review of theory and current empirical investigation

Jill T. Ehrenreich, Alan M. Gross

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


This review examines the state of current theory and research regarding a relatively new area of study in childhood anxiety: the examination of attentional biases associated with the processing of threatening environmental stimuli. In particular, this paper focuses upon current attempts to extend an information processing framework traditionally associated with childhood psychopathology (i.e., Crick & Dodge [Psychol Bull 115 (1994) 74]) and anxiety-related attentional bias research previously conducted only with adults, to populations of anxious children. First, a thorough discussion of Crick and Dodge's model and its applicability to current theories of anxiety is presented. Although each stage of Crick and Dodge's model is shown to possess correlates with current conceptualizations of anxiety, the research investigations reviewed here focus upon the multiple approaches that have been undertaken to better comprehend anxious children's attentional biases in encoding and subsequent task performance decrements. Specifically, recent investigations of anxious children's attentional performance utilizing Stroop tasks, probe detection tasks, and the relatively new probe localization task are reviewed. A discussion of the disparate findings associated with recent studies of each of these tasks is given, with an eye toward the need to specify the developmental, theoretical, demographic, and clinically relevant characteristics associated with the biased attentional behavior observed among highly anxious children.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)991-1008
Number of pages18
JournalClinical Psychology Review
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jan 1 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Attentional bias measurement
  • Childhood anxiety
  • Social information processing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Clinical Psychology


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