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Thirty-Third Annual Meeting of the Society for Research in Psychopathology

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20. Life Stress Moderates the Effects of Preschool Behavioral Inhibition on Anxiety in Early Adolescence

Although a robust body of literature implicates behavioral inhibition (BI) as a risk factor for anxiety disorders, many children with heightened BI do not develop anxiety. The current study examines the role of two forms of life stress (life events and natural disaster exposure) in moderating the relationship between BI in preschoolers and anxiety in early adolescence. A community sample of 392 children completed a laboratory observation of temperament at age 3. When children were a mean age 10, the region was devastated by a natural disaster and exposure to disaster-related stress was assessed. In early adolescence, youth and a parent were administered the UCLA Life Stress Interview (LSI) to assess behaviorally independent and dependent negative life events during the prior year and youth completed the Screen for Child Anxiety Related Disorders (SCARED). The association between BI and anxiety symptoms was moderated by both independent life events and disaster-related stress. Children high in BI reported greater anxiety symptoms after exposure to higher levels of stress. Importantly, this was evident for two different kinds of stressors that were both independent of the child’s behavior, increasing confidence in the causal role of stress in the development of anxiety in high BI children.

Emma Mumper
Stony Brook University

Margaret Dyson
Child Mind Institute

Megan Finsaas
Stony Brook University

Thomas Olino
Temple University

Daniel Klein
Stony Brook University


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