Although interpretation bias has been associated with the development and/or maintenance of childhood anxiety, its origins remain unclear. The present study is the first to examine intergenerational transmission of this bias from parents to their preschool-aged children via the verbal information pathway. A community sample of fifty parent–child pairs was recruited. Parents completed measures of their own trait anxiety and interpretation bias, their child’s anxiety symptoms, and a written story-stem measure, to capture the way parents tell their children stories. Interpretation bias was assessed in preschool-aged children (aged between 2 years 7 months and 5 years 8 months) using an extended story-stem paradigm. Young children’s interpretation bias was not significantly associated with their own anxiety symptoms. Neither was there evidence for a significant association between parent and child interpretation bias. However, parents who reported they would tell their child one or more threatening story endings in the written story-stem task had significantly higher anxiety than those who did not include any threatening story endings. In turn, children whose parents did not include any threatening endings in their written stories had significantly lower threat interpretations on the child story-stem paradigm, compared to those with parents who included at least one threatening story ending. The results suggest that parental verbal information could play a role in the development of interpretation bias in young children.
- Interpretation bias