DEVELOPMENTAL DIFFERENCES IN THE LINKAGES BETWEEN ANXIETY CONTROL BELIEFS AND POSTTRAUMATIC STRESS IN YOUTH


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Abstract

Background:Anxiety control beliefs have emerged as a trans-diagnostic risk factor for anxiety disorders and a potential mechanism of change in cognitive and behavioral therapies. The purpose of this study was to examine the association between anxiety control beliefs and anxiety disorder symptoms following exposure to hurricanes in youth and test a developmental hypothesis about those associations.Methods:A large school-based sample of (N = 1048) children and adolescents with a history of exposure to natural disaster were assessed with the short form of the Anxiety Control Questionnaire for Children (ACQ-C), symptom measures (PTSD and generalized anxiety disorder symptoms) and level of disaster exposure. Developmental differences in the association between ACQ-C scores and symptoms were tested, as well as the ACQ-C's ability to assess symptoms beyond level of exposure.Results:ACQ-C scores were associated with symptoms beyond level of exposure, but age moderated the strength of the association. Modeling the interaction suggested that the ACQ-C short had incremental validity beyond hurricane exposure in youth over 12 years.Conclusions:Findings extend previous work to a novel population of youth and add to the developmental understanding of the role of anxiety control beliefs in anxiety regulation. Age differences in the linkages between anxiety control and symptoms is consistent with a developmental model where low perceived control exhibited by younger children may be less indicative of problems with anxiety but may instead be related to normal cognitive development.

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