College of Psychology Theses and Dissertations

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Date of Award

1-1-2013

Document Type

Dissertation - NSU Access Only

Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PhD)

Department

Center for Psychological Studies

First Advisor

Bady Quintar

Second Advisor

Gene Cash

Third Advisor

Ed Simco

Keywords

Psychology, Clinical psychology

Abstract

Separation anxiety (SA) is often thought to occur exclusively during childhood; however, recent research has identified a putative diagnosis of Adult Separation Anxiety Disorder (ASAD), which mirrors separation anxiety often exhibited during juvenile years. Several studies have suggested that exposure to certain parental features during childhood may lead to the development of ASAD, including parental depression, parental anxiety, and parental overprotection. This study aimed to address these hypotheses by examining retrospective report of exposure to specific parental features among a population of adults diagnosed with ASAD and to elucidate important clinical correlates related to ASAD, such as impairment in daily functioning.

The present study used a survey design which was nationally representative and based on the National Comorbidity Survey-Replication and which consisted of a population of 436 participants with a lifetime diagnosis of ASAD and 2,438 participants with no history of a DSM-IV diagnosis. Participants were asked to respond retrospectively about their exposure to the above-mentioned parental features during childhood. Chi square tests revealed that participants with a diagnosis of Adult Separation Anxiety Disorder endorsed exposure to significantly more parental anxiety and parental depression. Additionally, chi square tests indicated that these individuals reported more features related to preoccupied attachment. Using survey participants with a diagnosis of ASAD or subclinical levels of ASAD, the effects of treatment on daily functioning, as well as the level of functional impairment associated with ASAD was measured. Individuals with a history of treatment for ASAD reported significantly more functional impairment in the area of work than those without treatment. An independent-samples t-test revealed that respondents with a diagnosis of ASAD endorsed significantly more parental overprotection than did respondents with no diagnosis. Last, the continuity hypothesis, which states that juvenile symptoms of separation anxiety continue into adulthood, was explored. A chi square goodness-of-fit test was used to determine whether these data fit the continuity hypothesis model. Results did not support the continuity hypothesis, as the number of participants who endorsed childhood separation anxiety was significantly lower than the expected count.

Future research should aim to identify efficacious treatments for ASAD, as few studies to date have demonstrated effective means of treating patients with this disorder.

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