Date of Award

Summer 6-29-2010

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Diana L. Robins

Second Advisor

Page Anderson

Third Advisor

Lisa Armistead

Fourth Advisor

Chris Henrich

Fifth Advisor

Erin McClure-Tone

Abstract

Separation anxiety disorder (SAD) is rarely considered in adults presenting with anxious symptomatology, but a growing body of evidence suggests that its symptoms are experienced by a significant number of adults. Early parent-child relationships are an especially important area of study for understanding SAD. Moreover, the attachment style that is formed through early parent-child interactions may serve as a mediator to later expression of symptoms of adult separation anxiety (ASA). Studying the early parent-child relationship and perceived parenting styles in conjunction with individual attachment styles will allow for a more systemic approach to understanding potential risk factors for the development of ASA. Young adult college students may be particularly vulnerable to ASA as they transition into college and away from primary caregivers. This study investigates a mediational model with individual attachment style serving as a mediator between perceived early parenting styles and symptoms of ASA in 170 first-year college students between the ages of 18-20. As anticipated a large percent of the sample endorsed clinically significant levels of symptoms of ASA (47%). In addition, results utilizing bootstrapping analyses demonstrated that a perceived indifferent parenting style had an indirect effect on symptoms of ASA, with the effect occurring through an anxious attachment style. Support for the mediation model was obtained when statistically controlling for perceived parenting styles of overcontrol and abuse as well as confounding variables including age, sex, number of different families lived with and emotionality domains of temperament (distress, anger, and fearfulness). Highlighting the role of perceived parenting styles and attachment styles in the development of symptoms of ASA will serve to establish potential family-based interventions and help in the development of prevention programs. Examining symptoms of ASA in young adult college students may result in the development of university-based psycho-educational programs to help these students master a challenging transitional period. This study is one of the first to explore a model that can help to explain the developmental trajectory of symptoms of ASA. Future studies are encouraged to consider symptoms of ASA when investigating anxious symptomatology in adult populations.

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Psychology Commons

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