Early Behavioral Markers of Anxiety and Reduced Frontal Brain Alpha May Predict High Risk for Bullying Victimization

Child Psychiatry Hum Dev. 2024 Feb;55(1):71-81. doi: 10.1007/s10578-022-01372-1. Epub 2022 Jun 26.


Bullying victimization has a profound negative impact on a child's emotional, social, and cognitive development. Childhood bullying victimization is reported across various social settings, suggesting common characteristics that increase a child's vulnerability to victimization. It is critical to identify early markers of such vulnerability to design preventative tools. Comprehensive semi-structured clinical interviews from mothers of child-victims and non-engaged control children included assessment of early developmental rituals and behavioral inhibition to social novelty, as potential behavioral correlates of anxiety. Neuropsychological and clinical assessment tools were used, and resting state spectral resting state EEG (rsEEG) was recorded. Increased frequency/severity of early developmental rituals and behaviorally inhibited responses to social novelty were apparent in all child-victims, alongside significantly reduced power of ventral prefrontal brain rsEEG alpha oscillations (8-13 Hz). This triad of findings, in line with prior studies, suggested an elevated early childhood anxiety, which, as current findings indicate, may be a cross-diagnostic marker of increased risk for life-long bullying victimization. Gaining insight into early childhood markers of anxiety may meaningfully complement neuropsychiatric prognosis and preventative efforts.

Keywords: Anxiety; Behavioral inhibition; Bullying victimization; Developmental rituals; Low alpha oscillations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Anxiety Disorders
  • Brain
  • Bullying* / psychology
  • Child, Preschool
  • Crime Victims* / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans