Specificity of facial expression labeling deficits in childhood psychopathology

Amanda E Guyer, Erin B McClure, Abby D Adler, Melissa A Brotman, Brendan A Rich, Alane S Kimes, Daniel S Pine, Monique Ernst, and Ellen Leibenluft(2007). J Child Psychol Psychiatry, 48(9):863-71.

BACKGROUND: We examined whether face-emotion labeling deficits are illness-specific or an epiphenomenon of generalized impairment in pediatric psychiatric disorders involving mood and behavioral dysregulation. METHOD: Two hundred fifty-two youths (7-18 years old) completed child and adult facial expression recognition subtests from the Diagnostic Analysis of Nonverbal Accuracy (DANVA) instrument. Forty-two participants had bipolar disorder (BD), 39 had severe mood dysregulation (SMD; i.e., chronic irritability, hyperarousal without manic episodes), 44 had anxiety and/or major depressive disorders (ANX/MDD), 35 had attention-deficit/hyperactivity and/or conduct disorder (ADHD/CD), and 92 were controls. Dependent measures were number of errors labeling happy, angry, sad, or fearful emotions. RESULTS: BD and SMD patients made more errors than ANX/MDD, ADHD/CD, or controls when labeling adult or childemotional expressions. BD and SMD patients did not differ in their emotion-labeling deficits. CONCLUSIONS: Face-emotion labeling deficits differentiate BD and SMD patients from patients with ANX/MDD or ADHD/CD and controls. The extent to which such deficits cause vs. result from emotional dysregulation requires further study.

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