Category: Child / Adolescent - Anxiety

PS11- #B64 - Fear of the Unknown: Underlying Across Anxiety Disorders?

Saturday, Nov 18
12:15 PM – 1:15 PM
Location: Indigo Ballroom CDGH, Level 2, Indigo Level

Keywords: Child Anxiety | Transdiagnostic | Cognitive Vulnerability

The current study utilized the fear of the unknown subscale from the Fear Survey Schedule for Children-Revised (FSSC-R; Ollendick, 1983) as an explicit measure of fear of the unknown with the goal of examining fear of the unknown across four anxiety disorders in a pediatric sample.  As observed in adult samples, fear of the unknown was expected to be an underlying transdiagnostic factor across anxiety disorders.  


Participants were 166 children and adolescents assessed at a university training clinic.  Participants ranged from 5 to 16 years of age (M  = 10.42, SD = 2.64), were 54.5% males (n=145) and mostly Caucasian (77.1%). IRB approval, consent, and assent were obtained prior to completing the measures. Among other instruments, particpants completed the SCARED-C (a self-report measure of child anxiety disorders) and the FSSC-R. From a larger study sample, 83 participants were randomly selected who had a total score equal to or greater than 25 on the SCARED-C (e.g., clinical sample) and 83 participants who had a total score less than 25 (e.g., nonclinical sample).


Four separate hierarchical linear regressions were calculated to predict panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, separation anxiety disorder, and social anxiety disorder based on participants’ level of fear of the unknown controlling for age and gender. Fear of the Unknown and the dependent variables (i.e., Panic Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Separation Anxiety Disorder, and Social Anxiety Disorder) were all correlated, ranging between r = .28, p =  and r = .45, p = F (3, 163) = 11.23, p < .01, with an adjusted R2 value of .17; Generalized Anxiety Disorder, fear of the unknown explained an additional 11% of the variance observed, F (3, 163) = 21.15, p < .01, with an adjusted R2 value of .28; separation anxiety disorder, fear of the unknown explained 19% of the variance observed, F (3, 163) = 13.45, p < .01, with an adjusted R2 value of .20; social anxiety disorder, fear of the unknown explained an additional 7% of the variance observed, F (3, 163) = 8.25, p < .01, with an adjusted R2 value of .12.


Due to the paucity of research examining fear of the unknown in youth samples this study attempted to contribute to the gap in the literature. The study findings are consistent with emerging evidence supporting intolerance of uncertainty and fear of the unknown as transdiagnostic factors across anxiety disorders rather than specific to a particular anxiety disorder.

Georgia L. Shaheen

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

Franziska NoackLeSage

Clinical Psychology Doctoral Graduate Student
Louisiana State University

Thompson E. Davis

Associate Professor / Director
Louisiana State University
Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Brittany A. Brown

Undergraduate Research Assistant
Louisiana State University