Category: Child / Adolescent - Anxiety

PS12- #B54 - Anxiety Sensitivity: Mediating the Relationship Between Fear of the Unknown and Generalized Anxiety Symptoms

Saturday, Nov 18
1:30 PM – 2:30 PM
Location: Indigo Ballroom CDGH, Level 2, Indigo Level

Keywords: Child Anxiety | GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder) | Mediation / Mediators

Given the physical symptoms associated with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and its posited relationship with fear of the unknown, the goal of the current study was to further examine the relationship between anxiety sensitivity, fear of the unknown, and GAD in a pediatric sample.


Participants were 252 children and adolescents assessed at a university training clinic.  Participants ranged from 6 to 16 years of age (M  = 10.00, SD = 2.66), were 50% male (n=126), and mostly Caucasian (63.6%). IRB approval, consent, and assent were obtained prior to completing the measures. Among other instruments, participants completed the Screen for Child Anxiety Related Emotional Disorders – Child Version (a self-report measure of child anxiety disorders), the Fear Survey Schedule for Children-Revised (a self report measure of feared specific stimuli or situations), and the Childhood Anxiety Sensitivity Index (a self report measure of anxiety sensitivity).


As recommended for small samples, nonparametric bootstrapping analyses (Preacher & Hayes, 2004; Preacher, Rucker, & Hayes, 2007) were used to test the meditational model of anxiety sensitivity mediating the relationship between fear of the unknown and self-reported symptoms of GAD while controlling for age and gender. Regression analyses revealed that controlling for age and gender, fear of the unknown significantly predicted anxiety sensitivity (ß = 0.38, SE = .07, t = 5.32, p < .01) and explained 21% of the variance in anxiety sensitivity. Furthermore, controlling for age and gender, fear of the unknown significantly predicted GAD symptoms even with anxiety sensitivity in the model (ß = 0.11, SE = .03, t = 3.67, p < .01) while anxiety sensitivity also significantly predicted GAD symptoms (ß = 0.16, SE = .04, t = 4.51, p < .01). The total model, fear of the unknown, anxiety sensitivity, age, and gender explained 26% of the variance in GAD symptoms. Mediation analyses based on 5000 bootstrapped samples using bias-corrected and accelerated 95% confidence intervals (Preacher & Hayes, 2004) showed that controlling for the effects of age and gender, fear of the unknown had a significant total effect on the self reported symptoms of GAD (ß = .17, SE= .03 t = 5.14, p < .01), a significant residual direct effect (ß = .11, SE= .03 t = 3.67, p < .01), and a significant indirect effect (ß = .06, SE= .02, CI of0.03 to 0.10).


Importantly, although the relationship between fear of the unknown and GAD symptoms was partially mediated by anxiety sensitivity, a strong relationship between fear of the unknown and GAD symptoms persisted. More comprehensive models of GAD are needed to enhance treatment implementation and provide superior treatment outcomes.

Georgia L. Shaheen

Clinical Psychology Doctoral Graduate Student
Louisiana State University
Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Thompson E. Davis

Associate Professor / Director
Louisiana State University
Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Amber A. LeBlanc

Undergraduate Research Assistant
Louisiana State University