PURPOSE: Stressful life events represent potent risk factors for the development of internalizing symptoms among adolescents. However the mechanisms linking stress to adolescent psychopathology remain inadequately understood. This study examined the role of emotion dysregulation as a mechanism linking stress to changes in internalizing symptoms among adolescents. METHODS: This study used a short-term longitudinal design. Stressful life events were assessed in a large diverse sample of adolescents (N = 1065), and emotion dysregulation and symptomatology outcomes were assessed at two subsequent time points. Structural equation modeling was used to examine the role of emotion dysregulation as a mediator of the association between stress and subsequent changes in internalizing symptoms. RESULTS: Emotion dysregulation mediated the relationship between stressful life events and changes in internalizing symptoms over time. Sobel's test indicated a significant indirect effect of stressful life events on subsequent symptoms of depression (z = 5.05, p \textless .001) and anxiety (z = 4.95, p \textless .001) through emotion dysregulation. CONCLUSIONS: Stressful life events appear to disrupt the adaptive processing of emotion among adolescents. Emotion dysregulation represents an intrapersonal mechanism linking stress to poor mental health outcomes. The implications for preventive interventions are discussed.
OBJECTIVE: To estimate the prevalence of serious emotional disturbance (SED) among children and adolescents exposed to Hurricane Katrina along with the associations of SED with hurricane-related stressors, sociodemographics, and family factors 18 to 27 months after the hurricane. METHOD: A probability sample of prehurricane residents of areas affected by Hurricane Katrina was administered a telephone survey. Respondents provided information on up to two of their children (n = 797) aged 4 to 17 years. The survey assessed hurricane-related stressors and lifetime history of psychopathology in respondents, screened for 12-month SED in respondents' children using the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire, and determined whether children's emotional and behavioral problems were attributable to Hurricane Katrina. RESULTS: The estimated prevalence of SED was 14.9%, and 9.3% of the youths were estimated to have SED that is directly attributable to Hurricane Katrina. Stress exposure was associated strongly with SED, and 20.3% of the youths with high stress exposure had hurricane-attributable SED. Death of a loved one had the strongest association with SED among prehurricane residents of New Orleans, whereas exposure to physical adversity had the strongest association in the remainder of the sample. Among children with stress exposure, parental psychopathology and poverty were associated with SED. CONCLUSIONS: The prevalence of SED among youths exposed to Hurricane Katrina remains high 18 to 27 months after the storm, suggesting a substantial need for mental health treatment resources in the hurricane-affected areas. The youths who were exposed to hurricane-related stressors, have a family history of psychopathology, and have lower family incomes are at greatest risk for long-term psychiatric impairment.
Anxiety sensitivity represents a robust risk factor for the development of anxiety symptoms among both adolescents and adults. However, the development of anxiety sensitivity among adolescents remains inadequately understood. In this study, the authors examined the role of stressful life events as a risk factor for the development of elevated anxiety sensitivity. Anxiety sensitivity was then examined in a longitudinal design as a mechanism linking stressful life events to changes in anxiety symptoms. Stressful life events, anxiety sensitivity, and internalizing symptoms were assessed in a diverse community sample of adolescents (N = 1,065) at 3 time points spanning 7 months. The results indicated that stressful life events were longitudinally associated with increases in anxiety sensitivity and that certain types of stressful life events, specifically events related to health and events related to family discord, were differentially predictive of increases in anxiety sensitivity. Moreover, anxiety sensitivity mediated the longitudinal relation between stressful life events and anxiety symptoms. Evidence was also found for the predictive specificity of anxiety sensitivity to symptoms of anxiety but not depression.
BACKGROUND: Sexual minority adolescents appear to be at increased risk for internalizing disorders relative to their heterosexual peers, but there is a paucity of research explaining this elevated risk. Emotion regulation deficits are increasingly understood as important predictors of internalizing psychopathology among general samples of adolescents. The present study sought to examine whether deficits in emotion regulation could account for disparities in internalizing symptoms between sexual minority and heterosexual adolescents. METHODS: The present study utilized longitudinal data from a racially/ethnically diverse (68% non-Hispanic Black and Hispanic/Latino) community sample of 1,071 middle school students (ages 11-14). RESULTS: Adolescents who endorsed same-sex attraction evidenced higher rates of internalizing symptoms at both time points. Structural equation modeling indicated that sexual minority adolescents exhibited greater deficits in emotion regulation (rumination and poor emotional awareness) than their heterosexual peers. Emotion regulation deficits in turn mediated the relationship between sexual minority status and symptoms of depression and anxiety. CONCLUSIONS: The results demonstrate the importance of considering normative psychological processes in the development of internalizing symptomatology among sexual minority adolescents, and suggest emotion regulation deficits as specific targets of prevention and intervention efforts with this population. Future studies are needed to determine whether stigma-related stressors are responsible for emotion regulation deficits among sexual minority youth.
The current investigation examined self-reported family history of psychological problems in a large sample of individuals diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and nonanxious controls. The GAD participants were all individuals receiving cognitive-behavioral therapy as part of two large randomized clinical trials. Family history information was obtained from the Anxiety Disorders Interview Schedule-Revised (ADIS-R; DiNardo & Barlow, 1988). The results indicate that, compared to control participants, individuals with GAD were more likely to have family members with anxiety problems, but not other psychological problems. Possible mechanisms for the familial transmission of GAD are discussed.
The role of worry in generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) has been posited to serve as an avoidance of emotional experience, and emotion regulation deficits in GAD have been found in several previous studies. It remains unclear whether those with GAD experience more dysregulated emotions during periods of euthymia and positive affect or whether these deficits occur only during periods of worry. Individuals with GAD (with and without co-occurring dysphoria) and non-anxious controls were randomly assigned to receive a worry, neutral, or relaxation induction. Following the induction, all participants viewed a film clip documented to elicit sadness. Intensity of emotions and emotion regulation were examined following the induction period and film clip. The results revealed that, regardless of co-occurring dysphoria, individuals with GAD in the worry condition experienced more intense depressed affect than GAD participants in the other conditions and controls participants. In contrast, presence of worry appeared to have less impact on indices of emotion dysregulation, which were greater in participants with GAD compared to controls, but largely insensitive to contextual effects of worry or of relaxation. Following film viewing, both GAD participants with and without dysphoria displayed poorer understanding, acceptance, and management of emotions than did controls. However, acceptance and management deficits were most pronounced in individuals with both GAD and co-occurring dysphoria. Implications for the role of emotions in conceptualization and treatment of GAD are discussed.
The effects of worry and rumination on affective states and mentation type were examined in an unselected undergraduate sample in Study 1 and in a sample of individuals with high trait worry and rumination, high rumination, and low worry/rumination in Study 2. Participants engaged in worry and rumination inductions, counterbalanced in order across participants to assess main and interactive effects of these types of negative thinking. During mentation periods, the thought vs. imaginal nature and the temporal orientation of mentations were assessed 5 times. Following mentation periods, negative and positive affect, relaxation, anxiety, and depression were assessed. Both worry and rumination produced increases in negative affect and decreases in positive affect. Worry tended to generate greater anxiety, and rumination tended to generate greater depression. Interactive effects were also found indicating that worry may lessen the anxiety experienced during subsequent rumination. Moreover, worry lessened the depressing effects of rumination. Worry was associated with significantly greater thought than imagery, compared to rumination. Rumination involved a progression from mentation about the past to mentation about the future over time. Implications for understanding the generation of negative affect and comorbid anxiety and depression are discussed.
The prevalence of most adult psychiatric disorders varies across racial/ethnic groups and has important implications for prevention and intervention efforts. Research on racial/ethnic differences in the prevalence of internalizing and externalizing symptoms and disorders in adolescents has been less consistent or generally lacking. The current study examined the prevalence of these symptom groups in a large sample of sixth, seventh, and eighth graders in which the three major racial/ethnic groups in the U.S. (White, Black, and Hispanic/Latino) were well-represented. Hispanic females reported experiencing higher levels of depression, anxiety, and reputational aggression than other groups. Black males reported the highest levels of overtly aggressive behavior and also reported higher levels of physiologic anxiety and disordered eating than males from other racial/ethnic groups. Hispanic females also exhibited higher levels of comorbidity than other racial/ethnic groups.
The relationship between dependent personality disorder (DPD) and several of the anxiety disorders is explored. Recent meta-analytic findings (this issue) suggest that DPD is comorbid with social phobia, obsessivecompulsive disorder, and panic disorder but not with the other anxiety disorders. Examination of comorbidity rates clarifies the relationship between DPD and specific anxiety disorders, but this method does not address many of the important questions concerning this relationship. It remains unclear whether DPD is associated with an increased risk for developing an anxiety disorder or whether anxiety disorders increase the risk of developing DPD. Additionally, if DPD does serve as a risk factor for the development of anxiety disorders, it is unclear whether this risk is clinically meaningful. Finally, causal mechanisms leading from DPD to anxiety disorder have not been examined and warrant future investigation. Examination of comorbidity rates between DPD and the anxiety disorders does not address many clinically relevant issues surrounding the DPD-anxiety relationship, but it does highlight important directions for future research.