Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

The Relationship between Anxiety Disorder Symptons and Negative Self-Statements in Normal Children

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

The Relationship between Anxiety Disorder Symptons and Negative Self-Statements in Normal Children

Article excerpt

The current study examined the relationship between anxiety disorder symptoms and negative selfstatements in a sample of normal children (N=l 19). Children were asked to complete the Screen for Child Anxiety Related Emotional Disorders (SCARED) and the Negative Affect Self-Statement Questionnaire (NASSQ). Results showed that, in normal children, there is a positive relationship between anxiety disorder symptoms, as indexed by the SCARED, and negative self-statements, as measured by the NASSQ. In particular, anxious self-statements were more often present in children who exhibited relatively high levels of anxiety symptoms. Furthermore, depressive and anxiousdepressive self-statements were found to be positively associated with the presence of symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, separation anxiety disorder, and panic disorder.

Anxiety disorders are one of the most frequent forms of child psychopathology, affecting about 10% of young people (e.g., Bernstein & Borchardt, 1991). The latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV; American Psychiatric Association [APA], 1994) recognizes the following anxiety disorders in children and adolescents: panic disorder, separation anxiety disorder, social phobia, specific phobia, generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic or acute stress disorder. A study by Bell-Dolan, Last, and Strauss (1990) has shown that anxiety disorder symptoms are also common among normal children (see also Spence, 1997). For example, in this study, generalized anxiety disorder symptoms and subclinical phobias affected 20-30% of the children.

The Screen for Child Anxiety Related Emotional Disorders (SCARED; Birmaher, Kheterpal, Brent et al., 1997; Muris, Merckelbach, Schmidt & Mayer, (in press a) is a self-report questionnaire that was developed to measure anxiety disorder symptomatology in children. So far, two studies have investigated the validity of the SCARED. In a clinical study, Birmaher et al. (1997) gathered evidence for the discriminant validity of the SCARED. These authors demonstrated that children with anxiety disorders exhibited the highest SCARED scores, children with disruptive disorders had the lowest SCARED scores, whereas children with depression scored in between. Apparently, the SCARED is able to differentiate between anxiety disordered children, children with depression, and children with disruptive disorders. In addition, Birmaher et al. (1997) found that children suffering from a specific anxiety disorder display the expected profile of SCARED scores. For example, children with generalized anxiety disorder scored relatively high on the corresponding SCARED subscale.

In a second study, Muris and colleagues (in press b) investigated the relationship between common childhood fears and SCARED scores in a sample of normal children. Children were given a shortened version of Fear Survey Schedule for Children (FSSC; Ollendick, 1983) which lists the 10 top intense childhood fears (e.g., death or dead people, getting lost in a strange place, spiders). Children were asked to indicate their level of fear (i.e., 'none', 'some', or 'a lot') of these items. Next, the relationships between children's FSSC ratings and SCARED scores were examined. For all FSSC items, the expected pattern of SCARED subscale scores emerged. For example, children who scored 'a lot' on FSSC item `getting lost in a strange place' exhibited significantly higher scores on SCARED separation anxiety disorder subscale than children who scored 'none', whereas children who scored 'some' fell in between.

Self-statements in anxiety disorders have become an important focus of recent research (e.g., Kendall & MacDonald,1993). It is generally assumed that a greater number of negative self-statements (e.g., `I'm going to make a fool of myself') is associated with higher levels of anxiety and fear (e. …

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