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Differential assessment of anxiety during fear conditioning and extinction in children

Friday, September 16, 2016 — Poster Session IV

12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
FAES Terrace


  • JS Feldman
  • DS Pine
  • NA Fox
  • KJ Michalska


Background: Autonomic responses, such as skin conductance response (SCR), and subjectively reported fear are two methods of assessing emotional reactions to threatening events. Both child- and parent-reported anxiety measures are often collected when studying children. Understanding the association between these different assessment tools is clinically relevant to anxiety disorders. This study explores the association between physiological and subjectively reported fear and anxiety. Methods: Forty-nine children (M =13.26 ± .56 years) underwent fear conditioning and extinction. During acquisition, participants viewed two different colored bells, the CS, one of which, the CS+, was paired with the UCS, an alarm sound. During extinction, the CS+ and CS- were presented without the UCS. We examined associations between SCR and self-reported fear during conditioning and child- and parent-reported anxiety. Results: Child- and parent-reported anxiety symptoms were not significantly correlated, with children reporting higher levels of anxiety than parents (t(41) = 3.13, p =.003). Further, SCRs at baseline were associated with parent-reported symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), for both CS+ (r = .36, p = .018) and CS- (r = .309, p = .042), whereas, self-reported anxiety during acquisition was associated with child-reported GAD symptoms, for both CS+ (r = .36, p = .018) and CS- (r = .30, p = .049). Conclusions: Results indicate that self- versus parent-reports of anxiety in adolescence may be differentially related to physiological and subjective measures of fear. Mediation analyses are underway to assess whether SCRs mediate the relationship between early childhood shyness and parent- and child-reported anxiety symptoms.

Category: Social and Behavioral Sciences