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Exuberance, attention bias, and externalizing behaviors in Chinese preschoolers: A longitudinal study

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Social Development

Published online on


Exuberance, a temperament type influenced by approach motivation, has been found to be associated with maladaptive behaviors such as more externalizing behaviors in early childhood. A possible mechanism underlying it is children's selective attention to environmental cues. However, few studies have investigated the effect of attention bias on the relation between exuberance and externalizing behaviors. This longitudinal study examined the association of temperamental exuberance (as assessed by behavioral observation and parental report) at 3 years old with attention bias to reward and punishment (as assessed by a spatial cueing task) and teachers' reports of externalizing behaviors at 5 years old in 153 Chinese preschool‐age children. As predicted, externalizing behaviors were positively predicted by exuberance and attention bias to reward. However, novel findings were that attention bias to punishment moderated the relation between exuberance and externalizing behaviors, such that exuberant children showed an increased risk of externalizing behaviors when they did not have high punishment bias. The results highlight attention bias to punishment as an important factor for the development of behavioral problems in exuberant children.