Category: Child / Adolescent - Anxiety
Introduction: Research indicates that the temperamental construct of negative emotionality is related to individual differences in child psychopathology, with greater negative emotionality predicting higher symptom severity. Effortful control, a self-regulatory aspect of temperament that is closely related to executive functioning, has been shown to play an important role in the etiology and maintenance of childhood internalizing symptoms. Greater effortful control may lessen symptom severity by allowing children to inhibit a prepotent behavioral or emotional response in favor of a more adaptive strategy. The present study examines the effect of effortful control on the relationship between levels of child negative emotionality and anxiety symptom severity in a diverse sample of anxious youth. Method: Children with anxiety disorders ages 8-12 (N=63; Mage= 9.87 years, SD=1.28; 62% female) completed a diagnostic interview (MINI Kid; Sheehan et al., 1998) and a test battery, including the Revised Child Anxiety and Depression Scale (RCADS; Chorpita et al., 2000) and the Early Adolescent Temperament Questionnaire- Revised (EATQ-R; Ellis & Rothbart, 2001). Results: Hayes’ (2012) PROCESS modeling was used to examine the moderating effect of effortful control on the relationship between negative emotionality and anxiety symptom severity. The overall model was significant, F (3, 59) = 20.44, p < .001. The interaction between negative emotionality and effortful control was also significant, B = -10.67, p = .049; ∆R2 = .03. Simple slopes revealed significant associations between negative emotionality and child anxiety for all levels of effortful control (p < .02), although relations were stronger at lower levels of effortful control. Discussion: Among children with high negative emotionality, higher levels of effortful control may be a protective factor against anxiety by offering greater flexibility to alter and regulate reactivity through mechanisms such as attentional and inhibitory control. In contrast, high levels of emotional reactivity, especially in the context of low levels of effortful control, may be a clinically meaningful target to better identify youth at highest risk of internalizing symptoms.