Nicole Di NardoNicole Di Nardo, a psychology student entering her final year at the University of Windsor, has co-authored a peer-reviewed paper published in the Journal of Anxiety Disorders.

Anxiety affects a child’s ability to read facial expressions, study finds

There’s an association between anxiety disorders and a child’s ability to read facial expressions, UWindsor psychology professor Lance Rappaport and undergraduate student Nicole Di Nardo write in an article in the latest edition of the Journal of Anxiety Disorders.

Di Nardo and Dr. Rappaport co-authored the article with researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University and the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Md. It is based on a study involving more than 600 children aged nine to 14. The children were asked to look at images of faces and identify the feelings each expressed.

The study found that children with generalized anxiety disorder symptoms were able to more accurately recognize expressions of happiness and fear, among other emotions. Meanwhile, children exhibiting symptoms of depression or separation anxiety were less able to accurately recognize facial emotion.

The results were similar across the study sample regardless of gender or age.

The study’s findings “highlight the importance of distinguishing between anxiety syndromes,” the researchers said.

Rappaport said he was thrilled for Di Nardo that the study was published.

“This is Nicole’s first peer-reviewed scientific publication,” he said. “It’s an impressive accomplishment for student research.”

—Sarah Sacheli