Early behavioural inhibition, a temperamental characteristic defined by fearful, overly-sensitive, avoidant, or withdrawn reactions to the unknown, is a predictor of later social anxiety. However, not all behaviourally inhibited children develop anxiety problems, and attentional bias to threat has been proposed to moderate the relation between behavioural inhibition and anxiety. The current study aimed to further specify the relation between early behavioural inhibition and later social anxiety by testing this potentially moderating role of childhood attentional bias to threat. Behavioural inhibition was assessed during toddlerhood (age 2.5 years) using laboratory observations of children’s behaviours in response to unknown objects and situations. When children were 7.5 years old, attentional bias was measured in 86 children (46 girls) using both a visual probe task and a visual search task with angry and happy faces. Child social anxiety was measured using questionnaires completed by the child and both parents, and clinical interviews conducted with both parents. Our results showed that while early behavioural inhibition was related to later social anxiety, there was no evidence for a moderation of this relation by attentional bias, suggesting that the relation between early fearful temperament and later social anxiety holds across children, independent of their attentional biases.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
- Developmental and Educational Psychology
- Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)