Experiential avoidance and anxiety sensitivity: Independent and specific associations with children’s depression, anxiety, and social anxiety symptoms

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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Abstract

Experiential avoidance (EA) is a key component in acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) theory and research. EA is associated with a wide range of psychopathology in adults including anxiety, in particular social anxiety, and depression, yet little research exists on EA in youth. Anxiety sensitivity (AS), like EA, has been viewed as a form of distress tolerance or emotion regulation. In a sample of 124 children (age 10 to 12), this study examined the independent and specific relations of EA and AS to children’s depression, anxiety, and social anxiety symptoms, both before and after controlling for comorbid symptoms. EA and AS had independent associations with each of children’s depression, anxiety, and social anxiety; and EA had significantly stronger relations than AS with each of children’s social anxiety and anxiety. After controlling for depression, only EA (and not AS) was uniquely related to both children’s anxiety and social anxiety. After controlling for anxiety and social anxiety, only AS (and not EA) was uniquely related to depression. After controlling for depression and social anxiety, neither EA nor AS was significantly related to anxiety. In contrast, after controlling for depression and anxiety, EA (and not AS) showed a significant and unique relation to children’s social anxiety. These findings indicate: 1) there are distinctions between EA and AS; 2) EA and AS are overlapping yet independent correlates for each of depression, anxiety and social and anxiety; and 3) EA and AS show some differential relations with children’s depression, anxiety, and social anxiety when comorbid symptoms are considered. Theoretical and treatment implications are highlighted.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)124-135
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment
Volume38
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 2016

Keywords

  • Anxiety sensitivity
  • Children’s anxiety
  • Children’s depression
  • Children’s social anxiety
  • Experiential avoidance

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