Probability bias refers to the phenomenon that high-anxious individuals estimate future negative events as far more likely to occur, and in particular to themselves, than low-anxious individuals. The present study further examined this cognitive bias in a sample of non-clinical children aged between 10 and 13 years. Participants completed a scale for measuring symptoms of DSM-defined anxiety disorders and major depressive disorder, and a modified version of the Subjective Probability Questionnaire in order to assess probability estimates of future negative and positive events. Results showed that children's anxiety and depression symptoms were positively associated with probability estimates of future negative events, but only when these events referred to children themselves. Further, when controlling for concurrent depression symptoms, anxiety remained significantly linked to probability ratings of self-referent negative events. When controlling for concurrent anxiety symptoms, depression was no longer linked to probability estimates of negative events. Finally, depression symptoms were negatively related to probability ratings for future positive events.

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Journal of Anxiety Disorders
Department of Psychology

Muris, P.E.H.M, & van der Heiden, S. (2006). Anxiety, depression, and judgments about the probability of future negative and positive events in children. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 20(2), 252–261. doi:10.1016/j.janxdis.2004.12.001