Pathways from Peer Victimization to Anxiety: A Longitudinal Examination Considering the Role of Intolerance of Uncertainty
University of Kansas
Clinical Child Psychology
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Peer victimization reflects a robust predictor of anxiety symptoms in youth; however, pathways from peer victimization to anxiety warrant further examination. Early work supports the role of cognitions in this association. Intolerance of uncertainty, referring to one’s distress associated with an inability to predict outcomes when faced with ambiguous or challenging situations, has been associated with anxiety in children, but has not been evaluated in the association between peer victimization and anxiety. Further, empirical examination of theoretical models of the development of cognitive biases is lacking. The present three-wave longitudinal study extended the current literature by comparing competing models to determine whether intolerance of uncertainty moderates and/or mediates the associations between physical and relational forms of peer victimization and anxiety to further explicate pathways from peer victimization to anxiety. Within this framework, the present study examined whether exposure to peer victimization led to increased intolerance of uncertainty, which in turn contributed to more anxiety. Additionally, the study examined whether intolerance of uncertainty moderated the link between peer victimization and anxiety, such that youth exposed to peer victimization, who also endorsed greater intolerance of uncertainty, would go on to experience more anxiety. Participants for the current study were 334 elementary-school aged children who reported on intolerance of uncertainty and anxiety, while their teachers provided ratings of forms of peer victimization. Data collection occurred at three time-points across a 12-month period, each 6 months apart. Results of the current provided support for the stability of intolerance of uncertainty and anxiety across the three time points; however, support was not found for the mediation or moderation models. Future directions and treatment implications are discussed.
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