A large body of research finds that physically abused children have a very high risk of developing emotional and behavioral problems later in life. Now a study from researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison finds that these children have a tendency to focus and respond to even subtle signs of anger from others, one explanation for their distraction in classroom and social situations.
The researchers had previously shown that physically abused children tended to become especially vigilant about noticing signs of anger, threat, or harm. In this study, they wanted to understand how 4-year-olds who had been physically abused were able to focus and control their attention when exposed to a realistic hostile conversation between adults.
In the study, 33 children (both abused and not abused) played a computer game in one room while professional actors performed a scene in the next. During the scene, the actors started out calm, escalated into anger, then warmly resolved the conflict.
Andrea Browning | EurekAlert!
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