Degree

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology

Document Type

Dissertation

Abstract

Contemporary theories of psychopathology suggest that cognitive vulnerabilities play a key role in the development, severity, and maintenance of internalizing symptomology across the lifespan. The two primary cognitive vulnerabilities assessed in children and adolescents are anxiety sensitivity (i.e., negative beliefs about the consequences of physiological arousal; AS) and negative self-cognitions (i.e., negative self-referential thoughts; NS-C). These cognitive vulnerabilities are theorized to have transdiagnostic qualities, as both have been evaluated as predictors of symptoms of anxiety and depression. However, existing research in youth has largely examined AS in relation to anxiety alone and NS-C primarily in relation to depression. Additionally, the relationship between AS and NS-C has not yet been explored, and although subconstructs of these factors have been evaluated in adults, no empirical studies with these subconstructs have been conducted in youth. In the current study, the relationships between AS, NS-C, anxiety symptoms, and depressive symptoms were evaluated in 187 youth (ages 8-16 years), with age and gender serving as moderators. In summary, strong relationships between cognitive vulnerabilities (i.e., AS and NS-C) and their subscales and internalizing symptoms (i.e., anxiety and depression) emerged. After accounting for the relationship between the internalizing symptoms, the relationship between AS and anxiety symptoms was significantly stronger than the relationship between AS and depressive symptoms. Examinations of the subscales of AS and NS-C yielded further insights into the specificity of subfactors in predicting internalizing symptomology. Results and implications of this study may be used to expand transdiagnostic understanding of internalizing problems in youth and to inform clinical assessment and treatment practices.

Committee Chair

Davis, Thompson

Available for download on Sunday, May 10, 2026

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