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Journal: Journal of abnormal child psychology


Many schools and parents try to motivate children to become defenders of victimized peers. Defending behavior is common in the media (particularly in superhero programs); however, no study has examined the effect of media on defending behavior. The aim of the study was to examine longitudinal associations between superhero engagement and a variety of aggressive, prosocial, and defending behaviors in preschool children. Participants consisted of 240 preschoolers (49% male) and their parents who reported on child media use and outcomes at 2 different time points. Preschooler’s engagement with superheroes was related to increased physical and relational aggression 1 year later. Engagement with superheroes was not related to prosocial or defending behaviors. Implications of the results are discussed.

Concepts: Aggression, Relational aggression, Human behavior, Primary education, Preschool education


This study examined the incidence and correlates of functional gastrointestinal symptoms in children with anxiety disorders. Participants were 6-13 year old children diagnosed with one or more anxiety disorders (n = 54) and non-clinical control children (n = 51). Telephone diagnostic interviews were performed with parents to determine the presence and absence of anxiety disorders in children. Parents completed a questionnaire that elicited information about their child’s gastrointestinal symptoms associated with functional gastrointestinal disorders in children, as specified by the paediatric Rome criteria (Caplan et al., Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology & Nutrition, 41, 296-304, 2005a). Parents and children also completed a symptom severity measure of anxiety. As expected, children with anxiety disorders were significantly more likely to have symptoms of functional gastrointestinal disorders (FGID), compared to children without anxiety disorders. That is, 40.7 % of anxious children had symptoms of a FGID compared to 5.9 % of non-anxious control children. Children with anxiety disorders were significantly more likely to have symptoms of functional constipation, and showed a trend for a higher incidence of irritable bowel syndrome symptoms compared to non-anxious control children. Furthermore, higher anxiety symptom severity was characteristic of anxious children with symptoms of FGID, compared to anxious children without FGID symptoms and non-anxious control children. Also, children with anxiety disorders, regardless of FGID symptoms, were more likely to have a biological family member, particularly a parent or grandparent, with a gastrointestinal problem, compared to non-anxious control children. The high incidence of FGID symptoms in children with anxiety disorders warrants further research on whether gastrointestinal symptoms reduce following psychological treatments for childhood anxiety disorders, such as cognitive behavioural therapy.

Concepts: Anxiety, Psychology, Symptoms, Constipation, Gastroenterology, Irritable bowel syndrome, General practice, Ailments of unknown etiology


Increased intrasubject variability (ISV), or short-term, within-person fluctuations in behavioral performance is consistently found in Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). ADHD is also associated with impairments in motor control, particularly in boys. The results of the few studies that have examined variability in self-generated motor output in children with ADHD have been inconsistent. The current study examined variability in motor control during a finger sequencing task among boys with and without ADHD as well as the relationship between intrasubject variability during motor and cognitive control tasks. Changes in performance over the course of the task and associations with ADHD symptom domains were also examined to elucidate the nature of impaired motor control in children with ADHD. Fifty-one boys (ages 8 to 12 years) participated in the study, including 28 boys with ADHD and 23 typically developing (TD) boys. Participants completed a finger sequencing task and a Go/No-Go task providing multiple measures of response speed and variability. Boys with ADHD were slower and more variable in both intertap interval on the finger sequencing task and reaction time on the Go/No-Go task, with measures of speed and variability correlated across the two tasks. For the entire cohort, the only unique predictor of parent ratings of hyperactive-impulsive symptoms was variability in intertap interval during finger sequencing, whereas inattentive symptoms were only predicted by reaction time variability on the Go/No-Go task. These findings suggest that inefficient motor control is implicated in the pathophysiology of ADHD, particularly in regards to developmentally inappropriate levels of hyperactivity and impulsivity.

Concepts: Attention, Symptoms, Motor control, Educational psychology, Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, Hyperactivity, Methylphenidate, Impulsivity


Parents and children and adolescents commonly disagree in their perceptions of a variety of behaviors, including the family relationship and environment, and child and adolescent psychopathology. To this end, numerous studies have examined to what extent increased discrepant perceptions-particularly with regard to perceptions of the family relationship and environment-predict increased child and adolescent psychopathology. Parents' and children and adolescents' abilities to decode and identify others' emotions (i.e., emotion recognition) may play a role in the link between discrepant perceptions and child and adolescent psychopathology. We examined parents' and adolescents' emotion recognition abilities in relation to discrepancies between parent and adolescent perceptions of daily life topics. In a sample of 50 parents and adolescents ages 14-to-17 years (M = 15.4 years, 20 males, 54 % African-American), parents and adolescents were each administered a widely used performance-based measure of emotion recognition. Parents and adolescents were also administered a structured interview designed to directly assess each of their perceptions of the extent to which discrepancies existed in their beliefs about daily life topics (e.g., whether adolescents should complete their homework and carry out household chores). Interestingly, lower parent and adolescent emotion recognition performance significantly related to greater parent and adolescent perceived discrepant beliefs about daily life topics. We observed this relation whilst accounting for adolescent age and gender and levels of parent-adolescent conflict. These findings have important implications for understanding and using informant discrepancies in both basic developmental psychopathology research and applied research in clinic settings (e.g., discrepant views on therapeutic goals).

Concepts: Family, Psychology, Research, Perception, Child, Adolescence, Developmental psychology, Human development


Although prevalence rates of nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI) has been established throughout adolescence, little is known about the progression of NSSI, and consequently, about the risk factors for youth NSSI engagement. This study aimed to describe the overall longitudinal course of NSSI and the latent trajectory classes of NSSI in a population-based sample of adolescents using multi-wave data. Moreover, this study examined whether sex, lifetime history of depression, rumination, and negative attributional style predicted the longitudinal course of NSSI and trajectory group membership. Participants were 617 Chinese adolescents in Grades 10 through 12 (51.4 % girls). NSSI was assessed across eight waves of data. History of depression, rumination, and negative attributional style were assessed at baseline. Latent growth curve modeling revealed that only lifetime depression predicted the longitudinal course of NSSI from Grades 10 to 12, with depressed adolescents showing greater and more stable NSSI engagement over time than non-depressed adolescents. Group-based trajectory modeling yielded three distinct trajectory classes of NSSI engagement: low (69.2 %), moderate (26.1 %), and chronic (4.7 %). Negative attributional style distinguished adolescents in the chronic vs. low and moderate NSSI trajectory classes. Sex, rumination, and lifetime depression predicted membership in the chronic and/or moderate vs. low NSSI trajectory class. NSSI trajectory classes, based on frequency of NSSI, exist and are differentiated by sex, depression history, rumination, and negative attributional style. This study suggests that during this period of adolescence NSSI may be a relatively stable behavior, especially for some adolescents. Negative attributional style may be a salient risk factor for chronic NSSI engagement.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Medical statistics, Risk, The Chronic, 2000s music groups, Major depressive disorder, Trajectory, Hip hop music


Excess gross motor activity (hyperactivity) is considered a core diagnostic feature of childhood ADHD that impedes learning. This view has been challenged, however, by recent models that conceptualize excess motor activity as a compensatory mechanism that facilitates neurocognitive functioning in children with ADHD. The current study investigated competing model predictions regarding activity level’s relation with working memory (WM) performance and attention in boys aged 8-12 years (M = 9.64, SD = 1.26) with ADHD (n = 29) and typically developing children (TD; n = 23). Children’s phonological WM and attentive behavior were objectively assessed during four counterbalanced WM tasks administered across four separate sessions. These data were then sequenced hierarchically based on behavioral observations of each child’s gross motor activity during each task. Analysis of the relations among intra-individual changes in observed activity level, attention, and performance revealed that higher rates of activity level predicted significantly better, but not normalized WM performance for children with ADHD. Conversely, higher rates of activity level predicted somewhat lower WM performance for TD children. Variations in movement did not predict changes in attention for either group. At the individual level, children with ADHD and TD children were more likely to be classified as reliably Improved and Deteriorated, respectively, when comparing their WM performance at their highest versus lowest observed activity level. These findings appear most consistent with models ascribing a functional role to hyperactivity in ADHD, with implications for selecting behavioral treatment targets to avoid overcorrecting gross motor activity during academic tasks that rely on phonological WM.

Concepts: Attention, Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, Hyperactivity


Animal experiments and cross-sectional human studies have linked particulate matter (PM) with increased behavioral problems. We conducted a longitudinal study to examine whether the trajectories of delinquent behavior are affected by PM2.5 (PM with aerodynamic diameter ≤ 2.5 μm) exposures before and during adolescence. We used the parent-reported Child Behavior Checklist at age 9-18 with repeated measures every ~2-3 years (up to 4 behavioral assessments) on 682 children from the Risk Factors for Antisocial Behavior Study conducted in a multi-ethnic cohort of twins born in 1990-1995. Based on prospectively-collected residential addresses and a spatiotemporal model of ambient air concentrations in Southern California, monthly PM2.5 estimates were aggregated to represent long-term (1-, 2-, 3-year average) exposures preceding baseline and cumulative average exposure until the last assessment. Multilevel mixed-effects models were used to examine the association between PM2.5 exposure and individual trajectories of delinquent behavior, adjusting for within-family/within-individual correlations and potential confounders. We also examined whether psychosocial factors modified this association. The results sμggest that PM2.5 exposure at baseline and cumulative exposure during follow-up was significantly associated (p < 0.05) with increased delinquent behavior. The estimated effect sizes (per interquartile increase of PM2.5 by 3.12-5.18 μg/m3) were equivalent to the difference in delinquency scores between adolescents who are 3.5-4 years apart in age. The adverse effect was stronger in families with unfavorable parent-to-child relationships, increased parental stress or maternal depressive symptoms. Overall, these findings sμggest long-term PM2.5 exposure may increase delinquent behavior of urban-dwelling adolescents, with the resulting neurotoxic effect aggravated by psychosocial adversities.

Concepts: Longitudinal study, Adolescence, United States Environmental Protection Agency, Repeated measures design, Particulate, Smog, Air pollution, Dust


The goal of this study was to compare the effects of before school physical activity (PA) and sedentary classroom-based (SC) interventions on the symptoms, behavior, moodiness, and peer functioning of young children (M age = 6.83) at risk for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD-risk; n = 94) and typically developing children (TD; n = 108). Children were randomly assigned to either PA or SC and participated in the assigned intervention 31 min per day, each school day, over the course of 12 weeks. Parent and teacher ratings of ADHD symptoms (inattention, hyperactivity/impulsivity), oppositional behavior, moodiness, behavior toward peers, and reputation with peers, were used as dependent variables. Primary analyses indicate that the PA intervention was more effective than the SC intervention at reducing inattention and moodiness in the home context. Less conservative follow-up analyses within ADHD status and intervention groups suggest that a PA intervention may reduce impairment associated with ADHD-risk in both home and school domains; interpretive caution is warranted, however, given the liberal approach to these analyses. Unexpectedly, these findings also indicate the potential utility of a before school SC intervention as a tool for managing ADHD symptoms. Inclusion of a no treatment control group in future studies will enable further understanding of PA as an alternative management strategy for ADHD symptoms.

Concepts: Randomized controlled trial, Educational psychology, Management, Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, Randomness, Intervention, Peer group, Oppositional defiant disorder


Children with ADHD exhibit clinically impairing inattentive behavior during classroom instruction and in other cognitively demanding contexts. However, there have been surprisingly few attempts to validate anecdotal parent/teacher reports of intact sustained attention during ‘preferred’ activities such as watching movies. The current investigation addresses this omission, and provides an initial test of how ADHD-related working memory deficits contribute to inattentive behavior during classroom instruction. Boys ages 8-12 (M = 9.62, SD = 1.22) with ADHD (n = 32) and typically developing boys (TD; n = 30) completed a counterbalanced series of working memory tests and watched two videos on separate assessment days: an analogue math instructional video, and a non-instructional video selected to match the content and cognitive demands of parent/teacher-described ‘preferred’ activities. Objective, reliable observations of attentive behavior revealed no between-group differences during the non-instructional video (d = -0.02), and attentive behavior during the non-instructional video was unrelated to all working memory variables (r = -0.11 to 0.19, ns). In contrast, the ADHD group showed disproportionate attentive behavior decrements during analogue classroom instruction (d = -0.71). Bias-corrected, bootstrapped, serial mediation revealed that 59% of this between-group difference was attributable to ADHD-related impairments in central executive working memory, both directly (ER = 41%) and indirectly via its role in coordinating phonological short-term memory (ER = 15%). Between-group attentive behavior differences were no longer detectable after accounting for ADHD-related working memory impairments (d = -0.29, ns). Results confirm anecdotal reports of intact sustained attention during activities that place minimal demands on working memory, and indicate that ADHD children’s inattention during analogue classroom instruction is related, in large part, to their underdeveloped working memory abilities.

Concepts: Psychology, Attention, Cognitive psychology, Cognition, Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, Short-term memory, Working memory, Mediation


Callous-unemotional (CU) traits designate an important subgroup of antisocial individuals at risk for early-starting, severe, and persistent conduct problems, but this construct has received limited attention among young children. The current study evaluated the factor structure, psychometric properties, and validity of scores on a comprehensive measure of CU traits, the Inventory of Callous-Unemotional Traits (ICU), in relation to measures of antisocial/prosocial behavior and emotional processing, administered to preschool children. The sample included 214 boys (52 %) and girls (48 %, M age = 4.7, SD = 0.69) recruited from mainstream and high-risk preschools. Confirmatory factor analyses supported a two-factor structure including callous and uncaring dimensions from 12 of the 24 original ICU items. Scores on the parent- and teacher-reported ICU were internally consistent and combined CU scores showed expected associations with an alternate measure of CU traits and measures of empathy, prosocial behavior, conduct problems, and aggression. Preschool children high on CU traits were less accurate, relative to children scoring low, in recognizing facial expressions. They were also less attentionally engaged by images of others in distress when co-occurring conduct problems presented. Findings extend the literature by supporting the psychometric properties of the ICU among young children, and open several avenues for studying early precursors to this severe personality disturbance.

Concepts: Measurement, Psychometrics, Factor analysis, Conduct disorder, Preschool education