2013 IOCDF Grant

Cognitive biases in OCD: Mechanisms of generational transmission

Noah C. Berman, MA

Massachusetts General Hospital (Boston, MA)

Award Amount: $29,661

At the time of this study, there had been no research investigating the risk factors that predict the attention and interpretations behind cognitive biases in children at risk of developing OCD. One angle that needed research in particular was how parents influence and interpret their childrens’ OCD, and how that affects symptoms and severity.

Mr. Berman and his team evaluated how parent-level factors contribute to the expression of OCD in children by using measurements and behavioral tasks presented to 27 parents and their children with OCD. This project resulted in three publications. One used a sample of 27 parents and 48 children with OCD, and showed that certain factors from parents, such as religiosity, depression, anxiety, stress, and psychological control can impact the expression of their childrens’ OCD features. Another — using a sample of 27 parents and 27 children with OCD — showed that obsessions and their dimensions were negatively associated with emotion regulation, and positively associated with maladaptive emotional processes. Specifically, inhibiting expression of emotion was strongly tied to obsessions, and mediated the relationship between obsessional themes and their severity. The last — also using a sample of 27 parents and 27 children with OCD — showed that parents who interpreted their children’s obsessions as threatening were more likely to suggest maladaptive strategies to their children, and that these interpretations were associated with higher severity of obsessions, childrens’ own interpretations, and overall OCD symptoms.


Resulting Publications:

*Berman, N. C., Jacoby, R. J., Sullivan, A., Hoepnner, S., Micco, J., & Wilhelm, S. (2018). Parent-level risk factors for children’s obsessive beliefs, interpretation biases, and obsessive-compulsive symptoms: A cross-sectional examination. Journal of Obsessive- Compulsive and Related Disorders, 18, 8-17.

*Berman, N. C., Shaw, A. M., Curley, E. E., & Wilhelm, S. (2018). Emotion regulation and obsessive-compulsive phenomena in youth. Journal of Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders, 19, 44-49.

*Berman, N. C., Wilver, N., & Wilhelm, S. (2018). My child’s thoughts frighten me: Maladaptive effects associated with parents’ interpretation and management of children’s intrusive thoughts. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 61, 87-96.