Familial Association of Anxiety Sensitivity and Its Relation to Psychopathology

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Mitchell Berman

Advisor Department



Research suggests that genetic and environmental influences contribute to the development of both anxiety sensitivity (AS) and psychopathology, but family studies examining relations between levels of AS and psychopathology in first-degree relatives have produced inconsistent results. The primary purpose of this study was to determine if parental AS is related to levels of AS and psychopathology, specifically anxiety, depression, and substance abuse, in their children. A secondary purpose of this study was to compare the psychometric properties of two AS measures. One hundred seventy-four undergraduate students completed paper and pencil measures of AS and current mood and anxiety states. Psychiatric diagnoses were assigned using a semi-structured clinical interview. A subset of the offspring ( n = 31) returned two weeks after the initial appointment to again complete the ASI-R. Both biological parents of each offspring were contacted to complete AS measures. It was hypothesized that (1) There would be a positive relation between AS in fathers and mothers and in their offspring; (2) Higher AS in fathers and mothers would be positively associated with psychopathology in offspring. In order to evaluate the psychometric properties of the ASI-R, internal consistency, test-retest reliability, associations between scores on the two AS measures, and relations between AS and psychopathology in offspring were examined. Results indicated that offspring AS and psychopathology were associated with paternal rather than maternal AS. The ASI-R demonstrated good internal consistency and high test-retest reliability, which, combined with its ability to explain variance in psychopathology, recommends it for use in AS research.