Behavioral inhibition (BI) is a temperament characterized in young children by a heightened sensitivity to novelty, social withdrawal, and anxious behaviors. For many children, these social difficulties dissipate over time. For others, patterns of social withdrawal continue into adolescence. Over time, attention biases to threat may influence the stability of BI and its association with social withdrawal, ultimately modulating the risk for anxiety disorders in BI children. However, we know relatively little about the cognitive processes that accompany BI and shape later socioemotional functioning. We examined the relations among BI in childhood, attention biases to threat in adolescence, and adolescent social withdrawal in a longitudinal study (N = 126, Mean age = 15 years). As has been reported in anxious adults, adolescents who were behaviorally inhibited as toddlers and young children showed heightened attention bias to threat. In addition, attention bias to threat moderated the relation between childhood BI and adolescent social withdrawal.
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