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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 patients made more errors than ANX/MDD, ADHD/CD, or controls when labeling all emotional expressions, whether those expressions were on the faces of children or adults. SMD also showed emotion-labeling deficits, in particular as compared to ANX/MDD patients and controls. Conclusions: Face-emotion labeling deficits differentiate BD and SMD patients from those 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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Guyer, A.E., McClure, E.B., Adler, A.D., Brotman, M.A., Rich, B.A., Kimes, A.S., Pine, D.S, Ernst, M., & Leibenluft, E. (2007). Specificity of facial expression labeling deficits in childhood psychopathology. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 48(9), 863-871. DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-7610.2007.01758.x

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