Cognitive functioning, attention bias and emotional wellbeing in preschool children over their transition to school 2015-19

DOI

Children completed baseline assessments during their preschool year. Follow-up questionnaires were completed by parents and teachers during the child's first half term at school and the first half of their second term at school. Parents also provided daily report of children's anxiety for 14 days over the transition to school. At baseline children completed measures of cognitive functioning, attention bias for emotional stimuli using eyetracking, observation of behavioural inhibition as a temperament trait. Parents completed measures of children's emotional wellbeing, temperament, social functioning and their own anxiety at baseline and follow-up. Demographic characteristics were also collected.It is impossible for us to process all that goes on in the world around us. Instead we pay attention to specific things like the clouds in the sky or the sound of a dog barking. Sometimes we purposefully control what we pay attention to and other times things seem to 'grab' our attention. By acting as a filter, attention plays a fundamental role in shaping our experience of the world. Even if two individuals are exposed to exactly the same environment, their subjective experience can vary considerably, depending on which aspects of the environment they pay attention to. Psychological theory suggests that individuals who have a tendency to pay attention to things that are threatening are more likely to experience anxiety and might be more vulnerable to emotional problems during times of stress. There is already some research supporting this idea but it is all based on work with adults or older children. It is very common for young children to feel fearful or anxious from time to time. However, some children feel so anxious that they cannot do some of the things they would like to do such as approaching a group of children to make friends or staying away from home overnight. Even young children can show early signs of anxiety. Most of these children will go on to become confident and happy, but some go on to have problems with anxiety in later childhood and more long-term social and emotional problems. One of the aims of this research is to see whether attention towards threat, or children's ability to control their attention, helps predict longer-term problems with anxiety. The research will make use of exciting new technologies, adapted especially for children, which allow us to capture what children are looking at and record their brain activity whilst they look at pictures. As well as these simple computer-based games, the research also includes some tasks that parents and children complete together. These are to help us to understand whether parents are able to affect what their child pays attention to. This could be important for helping children who are at risk of developing anxiety problems. This research is important for two main reasons: first, because it may help us to identify children who are likely to experience emotional problems; secondly, it may help us to design new programmes that we can use to decrease the chances of these children having ongoing problems with anxiety. This would not only improve the quality of life of the children in question and reduce the emotional burden on their parents, but it would decrease the cost of long-term mental health problems.

180 pre-school age children were recruited from the local community in Reading, UK. Parents were invited to register an interest in participating via local advertising in magazines, via nurseries and on social media. They were then contacted to assess eligibility and invited to attend a baseline session if the child was the right age and had no diagnosed special needs. Families then attended a 2.5 hour session on campus where baseline assessments were completed. Baseline assessments were conducted during the child's preschool year. Follow-up questionnaires were completed by parents and teachers during the child's first half term at school and the first half of their second term at school. These were completed online. Parents also provided daily report of children's anxiety for 14 days over the transition to school via text message. At baseline children completed measures of cognitive functioning, attention bias for emotional stimuli using eyetracking, observation of behavioural inhibition as a temperament trait. Parents completed measures of children's emotional wellbeing, temperament, social functioning and their own anxiety at baseline and follow-up. Demographic characteristics were also collected from parents.

Identifier
DOI https://doi.org/10.5255/UKDA-SN-853813
Metadata Access https://datacatalogue.cessda.eu/oai-pmh/v0/oai?verb=GetRecord&metadataPrefix=oai_ddi25&identifier=fbf4beced60de9ad3bbe0b3a33c003c289bcbc4caa8c62eafe7d791aba6fb826
Provenance
Creator Dodd, H, University of Reading; Rayson, H, Institut des Sciences Cognitives Marc Jeannerod, Lyon, France; Ryan, Z, University of Reading
Publisher UK Data Service
Publication Year 2020
Funding Reference Economic and Social Research Council
Rights Helen Frances Dodd, University of Reading; The Data Collection is available to any user without the requirement for registration for download/access.
OpenAccess true
Representation
Language English
Resource Type Numeric
Discipline Psychology; Social and Behavioural Sciences
Spatial Coverage Reading; United Kingdom