Are there specific metacognitive processes associated with anxiety disorders in youth?
Terri Landon Bacow1, Jill Ehrenreich May2, Leslie R Brody3, Donna B Pincus4
1Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York City, NY, USA; 2Department of Psychology, University of Miami, FL, USA; 3Department of Psychology, 4Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders, Boston University, MA, USA
Abstract: While Wells’ metacognitive model of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) posits that certain metacognitive processes, such as negative meta-worry (negative beliefs about worry), are more strongly associated with symptoms of GAD than other anxiety disorders in adults, research has yet to determine whether the same pattern is true for younger individuals. We examined the relationship between several metacognitive processes and anxiety disorder diagnostic status in a sample of 98 youth aged 7–17 years. Twenty youth with GAD were compared with similarly sized groups of youth with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD, n = 18), social phobia (SOC, n = 20), separation anxiety disorder (SAD, n = 20), and healthy controls who were not patients (NONP, n = 20) using a self-report measure of metacognition adapted for use with young people in this age range (Metacognitions Questionnaire for Children). Contrary to expectations, only one specific metacognitive process was significantly associated with an anxiety disorder diagnosis, in that the controls endorsed a greater degree of cognitive monitoring (self-reported awareness of one’s thoughts) than those with SAD. In addition, there was a trend indicating that nonpatients scored higher than youth with GAD on this scale. These surprising results suggest potentially differing patterns in the relationships between symptoms and metacognitive awareness in anxious youth, depending on the type of anxiety disorder presentation.
Keywords: metacognition, childhood, adolescence, anxiety, diagnosis
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