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BACKGROUND: Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is increasingly being used to help children overcome emotional difficulties but its suitability is still a matter of debate. AIMS: This study investigated young anxious children's ability to generate alternative interpretations for events, a skill thought to be important for the effectiveness of CBT. METHOD: A community sample of 60 children aged 6-7 years (30 high and 30 low in anxiety) was tested. IQ, developmental level and the ability to generate alternative interpretations for ambiguous social scenarios were assessed. RESULTS: Both groups generated alternative interpretations. However, negative self-referent scenarios were more difficult to view from alternative perspectives than positive or other-referent scenarios. Correlation analyses suggested that verbal IQ was partially associated with this skill in both groups, while developmental level was most important in the high anxious group. A "personalizing" bias was found in the negative responses of both groups. CONCLUSIONS: It is concluded that young children, whether anxious or not, do possess the ability to complete one skill thought important in CBT. While difficulty with negative self-referent scenarios and personalizing seem to be normative in the sample, those most "at risk" who also have relatively lower developmental levels may find the task particularly difficult.

Original publication




Journal article


Behav Cogn Psychother

Publication Date





89 - 103


Adaptation, Psychological, Anxiety Disorders, Aptitude, Child, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Defense Mechanisms, Female, Humans, Imagination, Intelligence, Internal-External Control, Male, Perceptual Distortion, Personality Assessment, Self Concept, Social Environment, Social Perception