Date of Graduation

5-2016

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Psychology (MA)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Psychological Science

Advisor

Ellen W. Leen-Feldner

Committee Member

Matthew T. Feldner

Second Committee Member

Douglas A. Behrend

Keywords

Social sciences; Psychology; Health and environmental sciences; Adolescents; Anxiety sensitivity; Panic; Parents; Sick role learning

Abstract

A large body of evidence suggests that parents can facilitate offspring anxiety in response to bodily arousal. These learning experiences are referred to as “sick role reinforcement,” and are particularly important during adolescence, given the profound bodily changes (e.g., puberty) that characterize this period. Sick role reinforcement is likely important in the context of panic disorder (PD). Panic theorists suggest that parents may enhance panic vulnerability by increasing the threat value of bodily sensations. Although a sizeable body of work has examined the role of parent behavior in these processes, few have examined offspring factors in this process. Additionally, little work has examined how parental anxiety sensitivity (AS) is associated with parental sick role reinforcement. The current study investigates the associations among these variables using a series of vignettes in which parents were asked to imagine their adolescent offspring were describing a number of sensations associated with anxiety to examine the role of adolescent descriptions and parental AS on sick role reinforcement behavior. Results suggested significant effects of both offspring descriptions of bodily sensations and parental AS on parental sick role reinforcement behavior. Findings are discussed in terms of implications for understanding the nature and origins of adolescent panic symptoms and how such information can be utilized to inform prevention and intervention efforts.

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