Content specificity of threat interpretation in anxious and non-clinical children

Jamie A. Micco, Dina R. Hirshfeld-Becker, Aude Henin, Jill Ehrenreich-May

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


This study investigated content specificity of children's threat interpretations in a group of 40 clinically anxious (18 boys, 22 girls; ages 7-14 years) and a group of 40 non-clinical children (19 boys, 21 girls; ages 8-14 years). Associations between disorder-specific threat interpretations (in response to situations selected by each child) and each of six DSM-IV anxiety and depressive disorder symptom domains were examined for each group of children through multivariate regression analyses. Supporting theories of cognitive content specificity, results showed that for clinically anxious children, symptoms of social phobia and panic disorder were significantly and specifically predicted by threat interpretation in response to situations that corresponded to each disorder, while symptoms of separation anxiety were predicted by threat perception in situations relevant to separation anxiety and panic disorder. There was little evidence of cognitive content specificity within the non-clinical group of children. Implications for theories of development of interpretation biases associated with child anxiety disorders are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)78-88
Number of pages11
JournalCognitive Therapy and Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2013


  • Child anxiety
  • Content specificity
  • Interpretation bias
  • Threat interpretation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology


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