THURSDAY, July 14 (HealthDay News) -- New research suggests that
training kids in a positive thinking style about interactions with
other people could help them overcome anxiety and prevent such
problems from lingering into adulthood.
Researchers from Oxford University in the United Kingdom found
that training youth to bring a bias toward either positive or
negative interpretations of unclear social situations could
influence how the teens felt about those interactions and their
"It's thought that some people may tend to draw negative interpretations of ambiguous situations," said study leader Jennifer Lau, of Oxford University's Department of Experimental Psychology, in a university news release. "For example, I might wave at someone I recently met on the other side of the street. If they don't wave back, I might think they didn't remember me -- or alternatively, I might think they're snubbing me."
People with anxiety -- an estimated 10-15 percent of teens --
are more likely to assume the worst in such a situation. "These
negative thoughts are believed to drive and maintain their feelings
of low mood and anxiety," Lau said. "If you can change that
negative style of thinking, perhaps you can change mood in anxious
In the study, researchers attempted to train 36 teens to boost
their thinking -- in either a positive or negative direction --
through a computer program. The program aims to mold the responses
that teens have to hypothetical social situations.
Those who got the positive training became more positive
themselves in regard to their interpretations of the situations;
the reverse was true for those who received the negative
"Although these results are early, and among a limited number of healthy teenagers, we hope this approach to encourage positive interpretations of events will prove to be a powerful tool," Lau said. "If we are able to intervene early and effectively in teenagers with anxiety, we may be able to prevent later adult problems. The next steps are to give people with high levels of anxiety these training tasks to see if it helps change their mood over significant periods of time."
The study appears in the journal
Child Psychiatry and Human Development.
For more on
teen depression, try the U.S. National Library of Medicine.