Attentional bias to threat in maltreated children: implications for vulnerability to stress-related psychopathology

Pine, Daniel S., Mogg, Karin, Bradley, Brendan P., Montgomery, LeeAnne, Monk, Christopher, McClure, Erin, Guyer, Amanda E., Ernst, Monique, Charney, Dennis and Kaufman, Joan (2005) Attentional bias to threat in maltreated children: implications for vulnerability to stress-related psychopathology. American Journal of Psychiatry, 162, (2), 291-296. (doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.162.2.291).


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Objective: Previous research in adults implicates attention bias in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). To study attention bias in children, the authors used picture-based versions of the visual-probe attention bias task previously used with adults. They tested the hypothesis that attention bias to threatening facial photographs is associated with maltreatment and PTSD.

Method: A visual-probe task that manipulated threat levels was used to test 34 children who had been maltreated and 21 children who had not been maltreated. The visual-probe task involved showing photographs of actors with faces depicting neutral, angry/threatening, or happy expressions for 500 msec each.

Results: Attention bias away from threat was associated with severity of physical abuse and diagnosis of PTSD. This association reflected the tendency for high levels of abuse or PTSD to predict attention avoidance of threatening faces.

Conclusions: Previous studies examined the engagement of specific brain regions associated with attention orientation to angry/threatening faces. The current study used similar methods to document associations between attention bias and maltreatment in children. This sets the stage for studies examining relationships in children among perturbed brain function, psychopathology, attention bias, and maltreatment.

Item Type: Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.162.2.291
ISSNs: 0002-953X (print)
Related URLs:
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
R Medicine > RJ Pediatrics > RJ101 Child Health. Child health services
Divisions : University Structure - Pre August 2011 > School of Psychology > Division of Clinical Neuroscience
ePrint ID: 40138
Accepted Date and Publication Date:
Date Deposited: 03 Jul 2006
Last Modified: 31 Mar 2016 12:10

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