Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.


Psychological and Brain Sciences

Committee Chair

Woodruff-Borden, Janet

Author's Keywords

Worry; Generalized anxiety; Children; Cognitive


Worry in children; Anxiety in children; Cognition in children; Child psychology


Although worry is common in children, little is known about its development and maintenance. The current study reviews several areas of the literature to inform a comprehensive cognitive model of clinical worry in children. Parental influences on child anxiety broadly are reviewed, followed by a discussion of empirically supported cognitive models of worry in adult samples. Next, the potential impact of cognitive development on childhood worry is presented. A cognitive model is then proposed, and empirical support for the model is reviewed. Finally, a portion of the model is identified and tested empirically. Specifically, this study tests the hypothesis that cognitive development will predict the cognitive variables of threat interpretation, beliefs about worry, negative problem orientation, and intolerance of uncertainty (IU). It is also hypothesized that the cognitive variables will predict worry and that this association will be moderated by child development, such that the predictive power of the cognitive variables increases with child development. It was also hypothesized that female children will score higher than male children on the four cognitive variables and on measures of worry. Finally, it was predicted that scores on the cognitive variables will discriminate children with clinical levels of worry from those with nonclinical levels of worry. Children were recruited from public and private schools. A total of 80 children between the ages of 8 and 12 years completed the study. Overall, hypotheses were partially supported. Cognitive development, as measured by child age, explained variance in intolerance of uncertainty, negative problem orientation, and negative beliefs about worry. Intolerance of uncertainty, negative problem orientation, and negative beliefs about worry significantly predicted worry, and negative beliefs about worry emerged as the strongest predictor. Threat interpretation and positive beliefs about worry were not correlated with worry. Female children reported higher levels of negative beliefs about worry and negative problem orientation, but not worry. Finally, intolerance of uncertainty, negative beliefs about worry, and negative problem orientation discriminated clinical from nonclinical levels of worry. Exploratory analyses examined potential developmental trends in associations between the cognitive variables and worry. Findings are discussed in terms of theoretical and clinical implications and suggestions for future research are offered.