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Child Anxiety Sensitivity in Juvenile Adolescent Twins. Researched by Laura Hazlett from the VCU Psychology Department. Help from faculty mentors Dr. John Hettema, Psychiatry and Dr. Roxann Roberson-Nay, Psychology. Anxiety sensitivity (AS) is a dispositional trait where one is fearful of anxiety symptoms, and is distinguishable from the trait of anxiety itself. (Eke & McNally, 1996). These fears of anxiety-related sensations are an important factor in predicting the emergence and severity of panic symptoms (McNally, 2002). The Child Anxiety Sensitivity Index (CASI) is the child version of an 18-item self-report questionnaire commonly used to measure anxiety sensitivity. Zinbarg et al. (1997) demonstrated that the ASI has three first-order factors: Physical Concerns (i.e. “It scares me when my heart beats fast “), Mental Incapacitation Concerns (i.e. “When I am afraid, I worry that I might be crazy”), and Social Concerns (i.e. “Other kids can tell when I feel shaky “). The aim of the current study is to examine the relationship between scores on the CASI and responses during a low-dose carbon dioxide breathing task designed to induce panic-related sensations. The participants in our study were monozygotic and dizygotic twin pairs ranging from ages nine to thirteen. Twins’ responses throughout the task were measured using the Subjective Units of Distress Scale (SUDS) and the Diagnostic Symptom Questionnaire (DSQ), which measures cognitive and physical panic symptoms. We hypothesize that there is a positive relationship between the CASI and anxious responding during the carbon dioxide breathing task, such that as CASI scores increase, so do scores on the DSQ and SUDS. The results support the hypothesis and show significant evidence of a relationship between the CASI and subjectively experienced distress and panic symptoms. So, the more fearful an individual is of panic symptoms, the more severely they experience those symptoms, which in turn causes greater subjective distress. This study contributes to identifying the overall relationship between the CASI, DSQ, and SUDS scores when looking at physical, mental, and social concerns that contribute to the fear of experiencing subjective anxious symptoms.

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Current Academic Year


Faculty Advisor/Mentor

Dr. John Hettema

Faculty Advisor/Mentor

Dr. Roxann Roberson-Nay


Virginia Commonwealth University. Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program

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VCU Undergraduate Research Posters


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Child Anxiety Sensitivity in Juvenile Adolescent Twins