Date of Graduation

5-2012

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology (PhD)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Psychological Science

Advisor

Ellen W. Leen-Feldner

Committee Member

Lindsay Ham

Second Committee Member

Patricia Petretic

Third Committee Member

David Schroeder

Abstract

Available research indicates that worry is an important process involved in the development and maintenance of both psychological (e.g., Generalized Anxiety Disorder) and physical (e.g., coronary heart disease) problems. However, this process is still in need of further investigation, particularly among adolescents. While a sizable body of literature has examined the nature, prevalence, and correlates of worry in both adults and youth, laboratory investigations of this variable using a real-time worry induction paradigm have previously only been done with adults. The current study aimed to extend the literature by using the controlled laboratory methods well established in the adult literature to experimentally examine worry and the validity of a worry induction in a sample of adolescents. Specifically, 50 adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17 years were randomly assigned to either a worry or a neutral thought condition. Results provided initial support for the validity of using an ideographic worry induction procedure with adolescents. Specifically, consistent with hypotheses, participants in the worry group reported elevated levels of worry, depression, negative affectivity, and muscle tension relative to the control group. Similarly, repeated measures analyses indicated the manipulation produced increases in negatively valenced mood and future-oriented thought among those in the worry condition. Unexpectedly, predictions regarding the effects of the induction on happiness and degree of verbal-linguistic thoughts were not supported and there was not evidence that the induction served as a semantic prime. Finally, individual differences in metacognitive worry were not predictive of challenge response. Results are discussed in terms of their convergence and divergence with the adult literature, relevant developmental factors to consider, and future directions using experimental psychopathology methodologies in order to better understand the phenomenology and consequences of worry among youth.

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