When extreme, anxiety can become debilitating. Anxiety disorders, which often first emerge early in development, are common and challenging to treat, yet the underlying mechanisms have only recently begun to come into focus. Here, we review new insights into the nature and biological bases of dispositional negativity, a fundamental dimension of childhood temperament and adult personality and a prominent risk factor for the development of pediatric and adult anxiety disorders. Converging lines of epidemiological, neurobiological, and mechanistic evidence suggest that dispositional negativity increases the likelihood of psychopathology via specific neurocognitive mechanisms, including attentional biases to threat and deficits in executive control. Collectively, these observations provide an integrative translational framework for understanding the development and maintenance of anxiety disorders in adults and youth and set the stage for developing improved intervention strategies.