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Interpretation biases towards threat play a prominent role in cognitive theories of anxiety, and have been identified amongst highly anxious adults and children. Little is known, however, about the development of these cognitive biases although family processes have been implicated. The current study investigated the nature of threat interpretation of anxious children and their mothers through (i) comparison of a clinic and non-clinic population, (ii) analysis of individual differences; and (iii) pre- and post-treatment comparisons. Participants were 27 children with a primary anxiety disorder and 33 children from a non-clinic population and their mothers. Children and mothers completed self-report measures of anxiety and indicated their most likely interpretation of ambiguous scenarios. Clinic and non-clinical groups differed significantly on measures of threat interpretation. Furthermore, mothers' and children's threat interpretation correlated significantly. Following treatment for child anxiety, both children and their mothers reported a reduction in threat interpretation.

Original publication




Journal article


Behav Res Ther

Publication Date





1375 - 1381


Adolescent, Adult, Analysis of Variance, Anxiety Disorders, Child, Cognition, Fear, Female, Humans, Male, Mother-Child Relations, Mothers, Psychiatric Status Rating Scales, Self-Assessment