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Negative Life Events as Predictors of Anxiety Outcomes: An Examination of Event Type

Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology
Elizabeth P. Casline, Golda S. Ginsburg, John Piacentini, Scott Compton, Philip Kendall
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Long-term follow-up studies of anxiety treatment have found that greater exposure to negative life events (NLEs) predicts poorer anxiety outcomes, but none have examined whether specific types of NLEs are differentially associated with child outcomes. This study examined the frequency of NLEs and whether specific types of NLEs were associated with increased risk of having an anxiety disorder 6.5 years post randomization. Participants were 319 adolescents and adults, ages 11 to 26 (M = 17), enrolled in Child/Adolescent Anxiety Multimodal Extended Long-term Study. At their first follow-up visit, participants completed a diagnostic interview and a 40-item Life Events Scale that reflected whether specific events occurred since their last post treatment assessment. Life events were categorized into domains (i.e., family, academic, health, and social) via researcher consensus. Participants reported having experienced an average of four NLEs. Participants with an anxiety disorder at follow-up were significantly more likely to have failed a grade in school (OR = 5.9) and experienced a negative change in acceptance by peers (OR = 4.9; ps < 0.001). After controlling for gender, age, race, and SES, a greater number of NLEs in the academic domain increased the odds of having an anxiety disorder at follow-up (OR = 2.4, p < 0.001). No other domains were predictive of disorder status at follow-up. Findings highlight the value of examining specific NLEs in relation to the long-term child anxiety outcomes.

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