Category: Child / Adolescent - Anxiety
Individuals with social anxiety (SA) often experience interpersonal dysfunction and distress (Davila & Beck, 2002). Therefore, it is not surprising that interpersonal stressors (IS) have been found to predict SA in adolescents (Hamilton et al., 2016). While there is a clear link between IS and SA, research has yet to examine whether IS is more strongly associated with SA than non-interpersonal stressors (NIS). Furthermore, despite evidence of unique effects of dependent stressors (i.e. caused by a child’s behaviors) on depression, it remains unclear whether dependent stressors, particularly dependent interpersonal stressors (DIS), would be more likely to predict social anxiety than independent interpersonal stressors (IIS; Hamilton et al., 2013). Our study aimed to address these questions, as well as evaluate IS and social anxiety in the context of two models used to explain relations between stress and cognitions: cognitive mediation, which suggests that cognitive vulnerabilities to psychopathology are activated by stress, and stress generation, which proposes that individuals with psychopathology generate stress by way of their maladaptive cognitions (Cole & Nolen-Hoeksema, 2006).
Children from five elementary schools completed questionnaires at baseline (T1; N=189, ages 8-11) and one year later (T2; N=129, ages 9-12): 1) Life Events Checklist, yielding IS, NIS, DIS, and IIS scores, 2) Children’s Automatic Thoughts Scale, yielding a social threat cognitions (ST) score, and 3) Revised Child Anxiety and Depression Scale, yielding an SA score.
Analyses indicated that IS at T1 was correlated with SA at T1 (r=.16, p < .05) and T2 (r =.20, p < .05), while NIS was not correlated with SA at T1 or T2. Further examination revealed that DIS was correlated with SA at T2 (r =.11, p < 0.05) but not T1. IIS was not correlated with SA at T1 or T2.
Mediation analyses were conducted using PROCESS in SPSS (Field, 2013). With respect to cognitive mediation, there was an indirect effect of DIS at T1 and SA at T1 through ST at T1, b = .80, BCa CI [.234, 1.584]. However, no indirect effect was found between DIS at T1 and SA at T2 through ST at T1. No indirect effect was found between IIS at T1 and SA at T1 or T2 through ST at T1.
With respect to stress generation, no indirect effect was found between ST at T1 and SA at T1 through DIS at T1. There was an indirect effect of ST at T1 and SA at T2 through DIS at T1, b= .14, BCa CI [.019, .411]. No indirect effect was found between ST at T1 and SA at T1 or T2 through IIS at T1.
Findings highlight the role of interpersonal stressors in the development of SA symptoms and suggest that children focused on social threat may experience social anxiety in part because of behavior that exacerbates stress.
Holly Kobezak– Student, Montclair State University, Kendall Rd, New Jersey
Jeremy Fox– Assistant Professor, Montclair State University, New Jersey
Julie Ryan– Associate Professor, William James College
Leslie Halpern– Associate Professor, University at Albany, State University of New York, Albany, New York