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Keywords:

  • Probability estimates;
  • childhood depression;
  • childhood anxiety;
  • cognitive processing

The investigation of cognitive content and processes in childhood anxiety and depression has lagged behind similar research in the adult population. What studies do exist have largely restricted themselves to examining the nature of the thoughts that anxious and depressed children report. There is almost no research examining the ways in which anxious and depressed children perceive, attend to, remember, or think and make judgements about, emotional material. The present study investigated the subjective probability judgements that anxious and depressed children make concerning future negative events. Subjects generated probability estimates either for themselves or for other children for a range of events on a visual analogue scale. Events were either physically-threat-related or socially-threat-related. The results revealed no differences of interest with respect to type of threat but interesting differences between the groups with respect to reference. Depressed subjects estimated that events were equally likely to happen to themselves as to other children whereas both the controls and anxious children estimated that negative events were more likely to happen to others than to themselves, with this effect being stronger in the anxious group. These results are discussed in the context of the adult literature and also the limited literature on emotion-related cognitive processing in children.