Friday, March 25 at 9:30 am
B35, Solomon Labs
Title: Understanding the Nature of Perceived Control and its Relationship with Anxiety
Perceived control, or the psychological sense that one is able to personally influence events and outcomes in one’s life, has been identified as a potentially important risk factor for anxiety disorders. The present research was aimed at understanding the nature of perceived control as a risk factor for anxiety and how this construct is linked to a larger network of risk factors for anxiety. Study 1 showed that 6 cognitive appraisals known to predict anxiety, including measures of perceived control, loaded onto a single factor reflecting confidence in one’s coping ability. This confidence factor significantly predicted future state anxiety during a period of stress after baseline levels of trait anxiety and other possible confounds were controlled, suggesting that these appraisals may be used to identify those at risk. For Study 2, the Parental Facilitation of Mastery Scale (PFMS) was developed to assess parenting behaviors that may promote mastery experiences in childhood. A factor analysis of the PFMS revealed two components representing parental overprotection and parental challenge. Structural equation modeling revealed that perceived control mediated the relationship between these two parenting styles and anxiety. In Study 3 a factor analysis was used to demonstrate the distinction between masculinity (instrumentality) and mastery. Together these variables accounted for sex differences in anxiety. With social desirability and hassles controlled, mastery and masculinity were shown to contribute uniquely to the prediction of anxiety. Mastery mediated the relationship between masculinity and anxiety, suggesting that an important way in which masculinity may buffer against anxiety is through the development of a sense of control. Collectively, this research suggests that parenting and socialization experiences in childhood contribute to a psychological sense of control, which in turn establishes risk for anxiety. Implications for clinical interventions are discussed.