Associations among Negative Parenting, Attention Bias to Anger, and Social Anxiety among Youth

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College of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences, Psychology


Theories of affective learning suggest that early experiences contribute to emotional disorders by influencing the development of processing biases for negative emotional stimuli. Although studies show that physically abused children preferentially attend to angry faces, it is unclear whether youth exposed to more typical aspects of negative parenting would exhibit the same type of bias. The current studies extend previous research by linking observed negative parenting styles (e.g. authoritarian) and behaviors (e.g. criticism and negative affect) to attention bias for angry faces in both a psychiatrically enriched (ages 11–17 years; N = 60) and a general community (ages 9–15 years; N = 75) sample of youth. In addition, the association between observed negative parenting (e.g. authoritarian style and negative affect) and youth social anxiety was mediated by attention bias for angry faces in the general community sample. Overall, findings provide preliminary support for theories of affective learning and risk for psychopathology among youth.

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