Social anxiety, anticipatory processing and negative expectancies for an interpersonal task in middle childhood
Vassilopoulos, Stephanos P.
Moberly, Nicholas J.
Journal of Experimental Psychopathology
Cognitive models assume that socially anxious individuals engage in negatively-biased anticipatory processing that enhances anxiety and exacerbates maladaptive cognitions. To date little is known about this anticipatory processing and its relationship with mood and predicted performance in socially anxious children. In the present study, a school sample of 181 children (aged 10-11 years) was instructed to either engage in anticipatory processing or perform a distraction task while preparing to give a speech in front of the class. Results showed that trait social anxiety was associated with more negative estimates of personal appearance and catastrophic thoughts relating to speech performance. Following the manipulation, children in the distraction condition showed significant reductions in state anxiety, but children in the anticipation condition did not. Furthermore, children in the anticipation condition gave more negative predictions of personal appearance during the speech task than children in the distraction condition. Crucially, trait social anxiety was 'more strongly associated with catastrophic thinking and negative expectations of their personal appearance when children were instructed to engage in anticipatory processing rather than distraction. The findings provide further support for the suggestion that anticipatory processing plays a role in maintaining childhood social anxiety.
Vol. 5 (2), pp. 151 - 167