Category: Child / Adolescent - Anxiety
Although intolerance of uncertainty (IU) was initially explored in the context of anxiety, recent literature has identified robust associations between IU and a myriad of internalizing disorders (Shihata et al., 2016). Perfectionism has received similar attention as a transdiagnostic factor, with connections to eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and anxiety disorders (Limburg et al., 2016). Findings implicating both constructs as transdiagnostic risk factors have fostered nascent studies in children, and similar findings between perfectionism, IU, and internalizing symptomatology (e.g. anxiety, worry) have emerged (Flett et al., 2011; Buhr & Dugas, 2006). However, there has been little investigation on the mechanisms through which perfectionism and IU impact the development of these symptoms. One pathway of influence could be via attentional control (AC), or the ability to focus and flexibly shift one’s attention. It is possible that the mental rigidity associated with both perfectionism and IU, or an interaction of the two, could lead to a decreased ability to flexibly shift attention, especially during childhood when higher-order cognitive processes are rapidly developing. Further, deficits in AC have been consistently associated with the presence of internalizing disorders and increased symptomatology in children (Sportel et al., 2011). For this study, we examined the relationships between IU and perfectionism in predicting AC. Participants were 52 children between 8 and 13 years old and their parents, recruited from the community. Children completed self-report measures of perfectionism (Child Adolescent Perfectionism Scale), and IU (Intolerance of Uncertainty Scale for Children). To measure AC, we utilized the shift subscale of a parent-reported child executive function measure (Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function). Simple regressions showed that IU significantly predicted AC (R2 = .11, F(1, 50) = 6.258, p =.016), while perfectionism did not (p =.982). In a model analyzing the interaction between the two constructs, there was a significant main effect of IU (b = .099, 95% BC boostrap CI .0358, .1614, p=.003), as well as a significant interaction between IU and perfectionism (b= -.003, 95% BC bootstrap CI -.0047, -.0005, p=.015). Specifically, higher IU at high levels of perfectionism was linked to lower levels of AC. These findings help clarify mechanisms by which the transdiagnostic factors of IU and perfectionism could impact the emergence of a wide array of psychopathologies. Additionally, identifying the ways in which risk factors interact could help to target and prioritize avenues of intervention.