Behavioral Inhibition and Attentional Control in Adolescents: Robust Relationships with Anxiety and Depression

B.Esther Sportel*, Maaike H. Nauta, E. de Hullu, Peter J. de Jong, Catharina A. Hartman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Behavioral inhibition (BI) has been associated with the development of internalizing disorders in children and adolescents. It has further been shown that attentional control (AC) is negatively associated with internalizing problems. The combination of high BI and low AC may particularly lead to elevated symptomatology of internalizing behavior. This study broadens existing knowledge by investigating the additive and interacting effects of BI and AC on the various DSM-IV based internalizing dimensions. A sample of non-clinical adolescents (N = 1806, age M = 13.6 years), completed the Behavioral Inhibition System/Behavioral Activation System Scales (BIS/BAS), the attentional control subscale of the Adult Temperament Questionnaire (ATQ) and the Revised Child Anxiety and Depression Scale (RCADS). As expected, BI was positively, and AC was negatively related to internalizing dimensions, with stronger associations of BI than of AC with anxiety symptoms, and a stronger association of AC than of BI with depressive symptoms. AC moderated the association between BI and all measured internalizing dimensions (i.e., symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder, social phobia, separation anxiety disorder, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and major depressive disorder). Since high AC may reduce the impact of high BI on the generation of internalizing symptoms, an intervention focused on changing AC may have potential for prevention and treatment of internalizing disorders.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)149-156
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Child and Family Studies
Issue number2
Early online date11 Nov 2010
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • behavioral inhibition
  • attentional control
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • Attention
  • Behavior
  • Emotional States
  • Inhibition (Personality)
  • Major Depression
  • Adolescents
  • Attentional control
  • Behavioral inhibition


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