Category: Child / Adolescent - Anxiety
Various temperament characteristics (e.g., fearfulness, need for affiliation) have been shown to predict internalizing symptomology in children and adolescents (Perez-Edgar & Fox, 2005; Rothbart, Ahadi, Evans, 2007). Additionally, these temperament characteristics are often associated with emotion regulation difficulties and, in turn, emotion regulation difficulties are commonly found in individuals experiencing symptoms of anxiety and depression (Campbell-Sills & Barlow, 2007). The current study explored whether the relationship between adolescent temperament and internalizing symptoms was mediated by their reported emotion regulation abilities.
Data were gathered from 58 adolescents (69.5% female; ages 12-17, mean: 14.29, SD: 1.31) participating in a NIMH-funded research study for youth with Social Anxiety Disorder. Parents completed the Early Adolescent Temperament Questionnaire, adolescents completed the Emotion Regulation Checklist and the Youth Self Report, and both parents and youth completed the Anxiety Disorders Interview Schedule from which Clinician Severity Ratings were obtained.
Mediation was tested using multiple regression analyses and bootstrapped estimation of confidence intervals around the indirect effect (PROCESS; Hayes, 2012). Results indicated that parental report of adolescent fearfulness and affiliation each independently predicted youth’s report of their internalizing symptoms. Furthermore, adolescent report of their emotion regulation abilities mediated these relationships (Fear: Indirect effect lower 95% CI=-6.01, upper 95% CI=-1.03; Affiliation: Indirect effect lower 95% CI=0.71, upper 95% CI=3.50). Because zero is not in the 95% confidence intervals, the indirect effects are significantly different from zero at p < .05 (two tailed). Additionally, when emotion regulation was included in the models, the direct effect of temperament on internalizing symptoms was no longer significant (Affiliation: p = .89; Fearfulness: p = .49), indicating that emotion regulation fully mediates the effect of adolescent temperament on internalizing symptoms. Results were similar when the relationship between adolescent temperament and the Clinician Severity Rating of their Social Anxiety Disorder diagnosis was explored.
Although lack of temporal precedence prohibits assertions of true mediation, the presented model provides support for the important role of emotion regulation for youth whose temperamental characteristics increase their risk of internalizing symptoms. Emotion regulation should be further explored as a skill which could be targeted in intervention programs designed to treat anxiety in youth and perhaps even to prevent the onset of these problems.
Sarah Ryan– Student, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia
Reina Factor– Graduate Student, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia
Marlene Strege– B.A., Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia
Nicole Capriola– Graduate Student, Virginia Tech, Henrico, Virginia
Thomas H. Ollendick– Virginia Tech