Appraisals of dependent stressor controllability and severity are associated with depression and anxiety symptoms in youth

Alyssa Fassett-Carman, Benjamin L. Hankin, Hannah R. Snyder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background and objectives: Stress is well established as a strong risk factor for internalizing psychopathology. Learned helplessness research demonstrates that perceived controllability of stressors affects internalizing symptoms. Furthermore, subjective perceived stress is associated with psychopathology. However, most recent research has focused on measuring the frequency and expert-rated severity of stressful life events despite evidence for the importance of stress perceptions. The present study brings together past and current literatures to investigate the importance of perceived severity and controllability of recent life events in the association between stressors and internalizing symptoms. Design and methods: We used a revised version of the Adolescent Life Events Questionnaire (ALEQ) that asked participants (ages 13–22, N = 328) to rate the frequency of 65 stressful events typical to youth, as well as the perceived stressfulness and control they felt over each event. Events were categorized prior to analysis as dependent (self-generated), independent (fateful) or neither. Results: Controllability and severity appraisals were associated with depression and anxiety symptoms, controlling for stressor frequency (which also predicted symptoms), for dependent but not independent stressors. Conclusions: These results highlight the importance of controllability and severity appraisals as potential risk factors for internalizing disorders, exposing a potential target for therapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)32-49
Number of pages18
JournalAnxiety, Stress and Coping
Volume32
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2 2019

Keywords

  • ALEQ
  • Stress controllability
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • stress appraisal
  • stress severity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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