The tendency to selectively process events as threatening is a central feature of cognitive models of anxiety. A number of studies with adults demonstrate an association between threat interpretation biases and panic disorder, social phobia and generalized anxiety disorder. Although investigations of cognitive factors in childhood anxiety disorders have lagged behind research with adults research has shown similar threat interpretation biases in relation to childhood anxiety disorders. A U.S. study of 45 7-12 year-olds presented them with three ambiguous situations and asked them how they would think, feel about and respond to them. 15 of the children suffered from anxiety disorders, 16 weren't anxious but were considered at risk because they had anxious parents and 14 were non-anxious with non-anxious parents. Compared to the other children the anxious children reported stronger negative emotions in response to the situations and felt that they had less ability to influence them. Children with anxious and non-anxious parents had similar results on the tests.
Waters, Allison M. ... [et al] - Threat interpretation bias as a vulnerability factor in childhood anxiety disorders Behaviour Research and Therapy January 2008, 46(1), 39-47