Changing Cognitive Processes Based on Internal and External Cues in Children With Social Anxiety Disorder

Models of social anxiety disorder (SAD) in adults have focused on cognitive biases before, during and after social situations, which might lead to a negative self-concept in patients with diagnosed SAD. It could be shown that patients with SAD report more anxiety and worries even before a social situation (anticipatory rumination). During a social situation, patients with SAD often focus more prominently on themselves (e.g., feelings, bodily perceptions, thoughts, self-focused attention). After the situation, rumination processes are found with a focus on negative aspects of the social situation (post-event processing). How these factors are influenced and how they interact – possibly a shift of attention towards internal signals – has not yet been fully clarified, especially in children. Furthermore, based on theoretical models it can be expected that buffer effects (e.g., by social support or positive self-instruction) are possibly leading to less generation of negative thoughts. However, these effects have not yet been examined in children with SAD.
Therefore, the current project aims to conduct two experimental studies which try to answer some of the current research questions about the maintenance of SAD in childhood: Based on current theoretical assumptions of maintenance of SAD (in adulthood), the first study examines if children with SAD react more strongly towards internal signals (e.g., bodily perceptions). It is expected that they subsequently report more negative cognitions before, during and after a social situation (self-report as dependent variable). Assessment of eye tracking completes the examination of subjective measures as further dependent variable. The focus of attention (independent variable) will be experimentally controlled by a light (external signal) and a vibration device located at the finger (internal signal).
The second study aims to clarify influence of cognitive processes by social support from the parents and positive self-instruction (independent variables) during social stress. Besides subjective data concerning cognitions, psychophysiological measures are used as independent variables.
Based on a power analysis, a sample of 46 children per group (with and without SAD) aged 9 to 14 is examined.
The project will offer important insights into factors of maintaining SAD in childhood and add to considerations, if theoretical models of SAD in adulthood can provide explanations for SAD in childhood.

Principal Investigators
Asbrand, Julia Prof. Dr. (Details) (Clinical child and adolescent psychology and psychotherapy (J))

Participating external organizations

Duration of Project
Start date: 04/2020
End date: 10/2023

Research Areas
Differential, Clinical and Medical Psychology, Methodology

Research Areas
Angststörungen, Klinische Kinder- und Jugendlichenpsychologie

Last updated on 2021-16-12 at 19:32