Modulation of Inhibitory Processing by Posttraumatic Stress Symptoms and Anxiety in a Subclinical Sample of Children

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In adults, pathologies of anxiety such as posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) involve deficits in information processing that may reflect hypervigilance and deficient inhibitory control, specifically for negative information. However, little is known about inhibitory processing in children, particularly regarding the inhibition of emotional information. This study investigated whether children with PTSS or anxiety show impairments in executive control in an inhibition task. A total of 45 children (M age = 9.2 year, SD = 0.7, range: 8–11) completed an inhibition task involving emotional—happy, angry, and fearful—and neutral stimuli and clinical scales for PTSS and anxiety. The results indicated that the percentage of correct answers was modulated by PTSS status, particularly in the happiness task. PTSS and anxiety altered the inhibition of fearful information in children. These data suggest different types of inhibitory deficits depending on clinical symptoms, and implications are discussed.

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