Facial affect recognition and social anxiety in preschool children

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Facial affect recognition and social anxiety in preschool children
   PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLE This article was downloaded by: [tracy.morris]  On: 18 August 2009  Access details: Access Details: [subscription number 914002003]  Publisher Routledge  Informa Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office: Mortimer House,37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK Early Child Development and Care Publication details, including instructions for authors and subscription information:http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/title~content=t713640830 Facial affect recognition and social anxiety in preschool children Chelsea M. Ale a ; Daniel B. Chorney a ; Chad S. Brice a ; Tracy L. Morris aa  West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia, USAFirst Published on: 18 August 2009 To cite this Article  Ale, Chelsea M., Chorney, Daniel B., Brice, Chad S. and Morris, Tracy L.(2009)'Facial affect recognition and socialanxiety in preschool children',Early Child Development and Care,99999:1, To link to this Article DOI 10.1080/03004430903059318 URL http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03004430903059318 Full terms and conditions of use: http://www.informaworld.com/terms-and-conditions-of-access.pdfThis article may be used for research, teaching and private study purposes. Any substantial orsystematic reproduction, re-distribution, re-selling, loan or sub-licensing, systematic supply ordistribution in any form to anyone is expressly forbidden.The publisher does not give any warranty express or implied or make any representation that the contentswill be complete or accurate or up to date. The accuracy of any instructions, formulae and drug dosesshould be independently verified with primary sources. The publisher shall not be liable for any loss,actions, claims, proceedings, demand or costs or damages whatsoever or howsoever caused arising directlyor indirectly in connection with or arising out of the use of this material.   Early Child Development and Care 2009, 1–11, iFirst Article ISSN 0300-4430 print/ISSN 1476-8275 online© 2009 Taylor & FrancisDOI: 10.1080/03004430903059318http://www.informaworld.com Facial affect recognition and social anxiety in preschool children Chelsea M. Ale, Daniel B. Chorney, Chad S. Brice and Tracy L. Morris* West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia, USA TaylorandFrancisGECD_A_406104.sgm (  Received 13 January 2009; final version received 20 May 2009 ) 10.1080/03004430903059318EarlyChildDevelopmentandCare0300-4430(print)/1476-8275(online)OriginalArticle2009Taylor&Francis0000000002009TMorristracy.morris@mail.wvu.edu Research relating anxiety and facial affect recognition has focused mostly onschool-aged children and adults and has yielded mixed results. The current studysought to demonstrate an association among behavioural inhibition and parent-reported social anxiety, shyness, social withdrawal and facial affect recognition performance in 30 children, ages four to five years. Children performed significantly more accurately when labelling child faces than adult faces, t  (29) = − 2.70,  p  < .05 and were most accurate in labelling happy faces, t  (29) = − 2.05,  p  <.05. Behavioural inhibition, social anxiety, shyness and social withdrawalaccounted for a significant portion of variance in children’s labelling of child facialaffect, r  2  = .31,  F  (4,24) = 2.74,  p  = .05. Findings suggest that children with socialanxiety may be highly adept at facial affect interpretation in peers. Future researchis needed to more clearly elucidate the role of hypervigilance to social cues indevelopment of anxiety. Keywords:  behavioural inhibition; preschool; social anxiety; affect recognition Introduction Social anxiety, or excessive shyness, can hinder social and emotional developmentthroughout childhood, increasing a child’s risk for maladjustment and mental health problems throughout the lifetime (Morris, Hirshfeld-Becker, Henin, & Storch, 2004).Specifically, early childhood is a crucial period in social development. During preschool, children learn to interact with peers, develop emotional understanding and negotiate social situations (Denham et al., 2003). Mastery of these developmentalskills prepares the child for future successes in peer relations (Denham et al., 2003).Preschoolers who exhibit more socially anxious behaviours are often rated by teachersas less prosocial and more withdrawn, even though these same children may want toengage with their peers (Coplan, Prakash, O’Neil, & Armer, 2004). These childrentend to avoid social interactions and consequently may experience deficits in thedevelopment of social skills.Many social subtleties are communicated through facial expressions and bodylanguage. From infancy, children examine the face of their caregivers in order to better understand their environment. Most children’s abilities to recognise differentaffective stimuli increase throughout childhood. They begin identifying happy facesaccurately in preschool and do not develop full accurate recognition of fearful facialstimuli until around age 10 (Philippot & Feldman, 1990). Denham et al. (2003) assert that children who can identify an expression on a peer’s face or comprehend the *Corresponding author. Email: tracy.morris@mail.wvu.edu.  D o w nl o ad ed  B y : [ t r a c y . m o r ri s]  A t : 18 :39 18  A u g u s t 2009  2  C.M. Ale et al. emotions elicited by common social situations are more likely to react prosocially totheir peers’ ‘displays of emotion’. Facial affect recognition may be a key componentof emotional and social development.In a non-clinical sample of four- to 15-year-olds, Herba, Landau, Russell, Ecker,and Phillips (2006) found a significant positive association between age and emotionrecognition accuracy. Within this sample, the young children (four- to six-year olds)most accurately labelled fearful and happy faces. The association of age and facialaffect recognition abilities suggests that young children are rapidly developing their emotional and social abilities, perhaps beginning with the most intense emotions. Nowicki and Mitchell (1998) found a positive association between receptivenonverbal accuracy and social competence in preschoolers. However, they did notexamine social anxiety, inhibition or social withdrawal. Unlike children withAsperger’s Syndrome and Autism, who show clear deficits in emotional processing(Ashwin, Wheelwright, & Baron-Cohen, 2006), there are mixed results regarding theaffect recognition abilities of children with social anxiety. One published study hasfound facial affect recognition deficits for nine- to 15-year-old children and adolescents diagnosed with social anxiety disorder compared to non-anxious peers(Simonian, Beidel, Turner, Berkes, & Long, 2001). This study differed from the other studies presented herein in its facial stimuli. Simonian and colleagues used thePictures of Facial Affect (Ekman & Friesen, 1976), whereas most other studies haveused the Diagnostic Analysis of Nonverbal Accuracy (DANVA; Nowicki & Duke,1994) stimuli. It is unclear whether the methodological differences contributed to thedivergent results or whether other variables may be in play.Examining the abilities of socially anxious school-aged children, Melfsen and Florin (2002) found no difference in affect recognition accuracy compared to non-anxious peers. They did report that children with greater social anxiety had longer reaction times than the non-clinical group. Although attentional processes were notexamined, the findings suggest that children with greater social anxiety may examinefaces more closely than their less anxious peers.Ladouceur et al. (2005) found that eight- to 16-year-olds with an anxiety disorder,Major Depressive Disorder, or comorbid anxiety and depression recognised facialemotion differently than non-clinical controls. Increasing anxiety in six- to 10-year-old children has been associated with greater accuracy in searching for angry and happy faces among distracting stimuli than searching for neutral faces (Hadwin et al.,2003), supporting a hypervigilance theory for facial cues in anxious children. Thisfinding was not replicated for depressed or non-clinical children ( Nowicki & Carton,1997), suggesting that this hypervigilance may be a unique anxiety process.While there is still debate as to whether children and adolescents who experiencesocial anxiety show different abilities in labelling facial affect than less anxiousindividuals, the literature largely supports hypervigilant emotional processing inadolescents and school-aged children with both clinical and subclinical levels of anxi-ety. There is a surprising gap in research focusing on facial affect recognition in preschool children. Preschool is a crucial period for development of social and emotional competence in the peer arena. By better understanding how social anxietymight contribute to differences in affect interpretation at this young age, early inter-ventions and social skills training programmes may be tailored to the needs of  preschool-aged children.The current study sought to demonstrate an association between facial affectrecognition abilities and social anxiety. Specifically, it was hypothesised that social  D o w nl o ad ed  B y : [ t r a c y . m o r ri s]  A t : 18 :39 18  A u g u s t 2009   Early Child Development and Care 3 anxiety, behavioural inhibition and shyness would be positively related to accuracy inlabelling facial affect. Scores on the Social Phobia subscale of the SPAS (Spence,Rapee, McDonald, & Ingram, 2001), initiation latency and the Shyness and Sociabilitysubscales of the EAS-III (Buss & Plomin, 1984) were hypothesised to explain a signif-icant portion of the variance associated with total accuracy scores from the DANVAscales (Nowicki & Duke, 1994). Method  Participants As part of a larger study on the assessment of anxiety in early childhood, participantswere recruited from three preschools in a small city in the USA. All four- and five-year-old children in the three schools were eligible to participate ( n  = 99). Parentalconsent was provided for 30 children and verbal assent was attained from consented children before beginning child procedures. Participating children ranged in age fromfour years zero months to five years eight months (15 girls and 15 boys, mean age four years five months). Parents of these children completed questionnaire measures and the majority of respondents were mothers (89.7%) and were highly educated (41.4%held a graduate degree and 37.9% held a college degree). The sample was predomi-nantly Caucasian, non-Hispanic (90%) and included one Hispanic child, one Indianchild and one biracial child. Upon completion of the study, a monetary donation wasmade to the preschool for classroom resources.  Measures  Diagnostic Analysis of Nonverbal Accuracy Scale – 2 The Adult and Child Facial Expressions (DANVA2-AF and DANVA2-CF, respec-tively; Nowicki & Duke, 1994) were administered as the dependent measure. Eachsubtest consists of 24 photographs of male and female facial expressions of happy,sad, angry and fearful emotions.  Nowicki and Mitchell (1998) have used the facialexpression DANVA2 subtests with three- to five-year-old children. Scores haveshown internal consistency as measured in children as young as four years old (aver-age α AF  = .71, α CF  = .76) across 10 different studies (as reported in  Nowicki and Mitchell, 1998). Since facial affect recognition is theoretically not directly related tointelligence, adequate discriminate validity was attained comparing DANVA2-AFscores to IQ scores and tests of general cognitive ability in a study with preschoolchildren ( Nowicki & Mitchell, 1998).Each child’s response to the prompt upon presentation of the stimulus (described  below) was coded as accurate or inaccurate based on the established DANVA2 scor-ing criteria (Nowicki & Duke, 2003). For the purposes of the primary analyses, percentages of accurate responses on the two subtests were combined into a TotalDANVA2 Accuracy variable.  Behavioural observations Children were engaged in a stranger-child task (Bishop, Spence, & McDonald,2003), which was adapted from Asendorpf (1987). This task consists of three stages,  D o w nl o ad ed  B y : [ t r a c y . m o r ri s]  A t : 18 :39 18  A u g u s t 2009  4  C.M. Ale et al. Pre-Observation, Pre-Interaction Phase and Interaction Phase (as described below),during which the child’s behaviour is coded. For the purposes of the study, only initi-ation latency during the Pre-Interaction Phase was targeted for analysis and served asa marker of behavioural inhibition. Two trained raters coded 20% of the observationsand attained high reliability for initiation latency, r   = 1.00.  Parent report measures Demographic form. Guardians completed a demographics questionnaire designed to provide socio-economic and ethnicity information for the parent, his or her spouse (if applicable) and the child.  Emotionality, Activity and Sociability  (EAS-III; Buss & Plomin, 1984). The EAS-III is a 20-item measure with subscales for Emotionality, Activity, Shyness and Sociability. The Shyness subscale and the Sociability subscale were analysed as prox-ies of social reticence and social withdrawal. The Shyness subscale ( α  = .79 to .83)and the Sociability subscale ( α  = .60 to .74) have shown adequate internal consistencyin two samples of children ranging in age from four to 13 (Boer & Westenberg, 1994;Mathiesen & Tambs, 1999). Spence Preschool Anxiety Scale  (SPAS; Spence et al., 2001). The SPAS is a 27-item measure of early childhood anxiety. The Social Phobia subscale data wereanalysed as a measure of social anxiety. The SPAS was adapted for developmentalsensitivity from the Spence Anxiety Scale (Spence, 1998). The SPAS has been widelycited for differentiating early childhood anxiety (e.g. Connolly, Bernstein, & Work Group on Quality Issues, 2007).  Procedure A letter describing the study was sent home with the children along with routine mate-rials distributed by the preschool. Parental consent forms and parent report measureswere subsequently sent home with the children. Parents had the option of returningcompleted consent forms and questionnaires to the preschool in a sealed envelope or  by postage-paid mail to the researchers directly. The facial recognition and behav-ioural observation tasks were conducted in the preschool setting once parental consentwas obtained.  Facial affect recognition task  Each participating child was taken into an empty classroom with a familiar researcher.The child was led into the room to do a ‘special activity’ and asked to sit in a child-sized chair across a small table from the researcher. The following script was spokento the child once seated: We think children can guess how grown-ups and children are feeling just by looking attheir faces. I am going to show you some pictures of people’s faces and I want you toguess how they are feeling. I want you to guess if they are feeling happy, sad, angry or afraid. Do you know what these words mean? Can you tell me something that makes youhappy? Something sad? Something angry? Something afraid? Good. Now I am going toshow you some faces one at a time. I will show you each face for only a short time, soyou have to look carefully. OK? Here’s the first face. Ready? Is the person happy, sad,angry or afraid?  D o w nl o ad ed  B y : [ t r a c y . m o r ri s]  A t : 18 :39 18  A u g u s t 2009
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