Attention biases to threat link behavioral inhibition to social withdrawal over time in very young children

Koraly Pérez-Edgar, Bethany C. Reeb-Sutherland, Jennifer Martin McDermott, Lauren K. White, Heather A. Henderson, Kathryn A. Degnan, Amie A. Hane, Daniel S. Pine, Nathan A. Fox

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

210 Scopus citations


Behaviorally inhibited children display a temperamental profile characterized by social withdrawal and anxious behaviors. Previous research, focused largely on adolescents, suggests that attention biases to threat may sustain high levels of behavioral inhibition (BI) over time, helping link early temperament to social outcomes. However, no prior studies examine the association between attention bias and BI before adolescence. The current study examined the interrelations among BI, attention biases to threat, and social withdrawal already manifest in early childhood. Children (N=187, 83 Male, M age =61.96 months) were characterized for BI in toddlerhood (24 & 36 months). At 5 years, they completed an attention bias task and concurrent social withdrawal was measured. As expected, BI in toddlerhood predicted high levels of social withdrawal in early childhood. However, this relation was moderated by attention bias. The BI-withdrawal association was only evident for children who displayed an attention bias toward threat. The data provide further support for models associating attention with socioemotional development and the later emergence of clinical anxiety.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)885-895
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Abnormal Child Psychology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Aug 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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