Faculty Articles

Adolescents' Physical Complaints as a Function of Anxiety due to Familial and Peer Stress: A Causal Model

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Journal of Anxiety Disorders





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A causal model to explain adolescents' physical complaining behavior as an anxiety response to parent and peer stressors over time was developed. In order to determine the contribution of the mediating variable — anxiety — to the proposed model, a complex model with additional paths from parent and peer stress leading directly to physical complaints was tested against the above proposed simple model. Forty-three adolescents and their parents completed self-report measures designed to assess the level of parent and peer stress, anxiety, and physical complaints the adolescent experienced. Measures were obtained at two time periods (Time 1, Time 2) separated by a one-year interval to determine the delayed or cumulative effects of stress. Path analyses were utilized. The first analysis tested the model across time: stress at initial testing Time 1 and anxiety and physical complaints both one year later at Time 2. Results indicated that, although both the complex and simple models accounted for 39% and 33% of the variance in the criterion variables, respectively, the fit of the data to the models was not good nor did the models differ significantly in their ability to account for variance. Consequently, a modified model was proposed to account for the temporal discrepancy between stress at Time 1 and stress at Time 2. This model included parent and peer stressors twice, and separated by a one-year interval. The path analysis indicated that 47% and 28% of the variance in the criterion variable of the complex and simple models, respectively, was accounted for. In this case, the data was a good fit to both models, and the complex and simple models did not differ significantly from one another in ability to account for variance. Hence, the best model for predicting physical complaints is one in which anxiety and physical complaints are assessed both subsequently to and simultaneously with parent and peer stressors.



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