Anxious children's ability to generate alternative attributions for ambiguous situations.
Berry A., Cooper M.
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.