Title

Understanding Anxiety in Children Through Narratives

Date of Award

2006

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

William Wagner

Advisor Department

Psychology

Abstract

This study was conducted to examine anxiety in children's narratives elicited through figures in a school and dental play setting. Participants were nonclinical boys and girls between the ages of 8 and 12 and their mothers. Each child's state anxiety (STAIC-S) was measured and then compared to his/her perceived state anxiety of the figure in both settings (STAIC-S-S, STAIC-S-D) and the level of anxiety found in his/her narratives, as measured by the Speech Disturbance Ratio (SDR). In addition, mothers were included in the study to investigate whether or not a relationship existed between mothers' level of both state and trait anxiety (STAI) and their ability to describe their child's level of state anxiety (STAIC-P-S). Results revealed no significant relationships between the children's self-report of anxiety and their report of anxiety for the figures in the play settings. Additionally, no significant relationships were found between the children's self-report of anxiety and the anxiety expressed in their narratives. With respect to mothers' ratings, no significant relationships were found between the children's self-report of anxiety and the mothers' ratings of the child's anxiety. Mother's self-report of anxiety had no relationship on their ability to describe their child's anxiety. Furthermore, multivariate analyses revealed no significant gender differences on child's state anxiety. Mean comparisons, however, revealed that the children's ratings of state anxiety were significantly lower than their ratings for the figures in both the dental and school contextual play setting. Children's ratings of anxiety for the figure in the dental setting were significantly higher than ratings for the figure in the school setting. No significant difference was found between the children's self-report of anxiety and mother's report of children's anxiety. Implications for the projective hypothesis and a situation-specific theory of anxiety are discussed. Limitations of the study and directions for future research are also explored.