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.
Guyer, Amanda E.; McClure, Erin B.; Adler, Abby D.; Brotman, Melissa A.; Rich, Brendan A.; Kimes, Alane S.; Pine, Daniel S.; Ernst, Monique; and Leibenluft, Ellen, "Specificity of facial expression labeling deficits in childhood psychopathology" (2009). Psychology Faculty Publications. 119.