Faculty Proceedings, Presentations, Speeches and Lectures


Integrating Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Processes With Information-Processing Theory in Anxious Early Adolescents

Event Location / Date(s)

Washington, DC

Document Type


Presentation Date


Conference Name / Publication Title

52nd Annual Convention of the Annual Convention of the Association for Behavior and Cognitive Therapies (ABCT)


Social information-processing (I-P) theory for anxiety posits that children process social information through a series of cognitive steps (i.e., encoding, interpretation, response access, and response selection) followed by a behavioral response (Daleiden & Vasey, 1997). Anxious youth display deficits at various stages of social information-processing. Specifically, anxious youth display threat perception and interpretation biases, they choose maladaptive responses, and they engage in greater levels of avoidance than do non-anxious youth (Daleiden & Vasey, 1997). Therefore, identifying interventions targeting the specific tendencies of anxious children and adolescents in specific social situations would be beneficial.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) may provide therapeutic strategies that counter the cognitive process deficits in anxious youth. These strategies include mindfulness (nonjudgmentally paying attention to the present moment), acceptance (awareness and embrace of thoughts and feelings),and cognitive defusion (the ability to see thoughts as verbal processes instead of truths). Although ACT appears to benefit anxious youth (Swain, Hancock, Hainsworth, & Bowman, 2013), no study has examined ACT processes in relation to anxious teens’ social I-P. An examination of the association between ACT processes and social I-P theory would distinguish the therapeutic strategies that are effective during specific stages of adolescents’ social I-P. For example, because mindfulness increases attentiveness, it is likely that mindfulness opposes threat interpretation bias. The purpose of this study will be to examine ACT in the context of social I-P theory.

Participants include 288 students in grades 6-8, drawn from a previous study on the role of cognitive factors in adolescents’ anxiety. Participants completed the Revised Children’s Anxiety and Depression Scale (Chorpita, Yim, Moffitt, Umemoto, & Francis, 2000) and the Children’s Acceptance and Mindfulness Measure (Greco, Baer, & Smith, 2011) to measure anxiety symptoms and dispositional mindfulness. Presently, coders are re-coding the data gathered with the Children’s Opinions of Everyday Life Events-Revised (Suarez-Morales & Bell, 2006) to assess for avoidance, acceptance, cognitive fusion, and cognitive defusion. Bivariate correlations, mediation, and moderation analyses will assess relationships between ACT and social I-P variables.

Although there is a large research-base on ACT in adults, there is a scarcity of research focusing on youth. This will be the first study to assess ACT processes with an open-ended questionnaire in early adolescents. The findings from this research study will highlight the usefulness of ACT interventions for specific cognitive processes in specific social situations.