Background: Behaviorally inhibited (BI) children who also exhibit enhanced response monitoring might be at particularly high risk for anxiety disorders. The current study tests the hypothesis that response monitoring, as manifest in the error-related negativity (ERN), moderates the association between BI and anxiety.
Methods: Participants (n=113; 73 male) assessed for early-childhood BI were re-assessed as adolescents with a clinical interview and a flanker paradigm that generated behavioral data and event-related potentials (ERPs). Risk for anxiety disorders in adolescents was examined as a function of childhood-BI status and adolescent performance on the flanker paradigm.
Results: Adolescents with childhood BI displayed ERP evidence of enhanced response monitoring, manifest as large ERNs. The ERN moderated the relationship between early BI and later clinically significant disorders.
Conclusions: Physiological measures of response monitoring might moderate associations between early-childhood BI and risk for psychopathology. The subset of children with BI and enhanced response monitoring might face greater risk for later-life clinical anxiety than children with either BI or enhanced response monitoring alone.