Effortful Control as a Moderator of Attachment Insecurity’s Association with Generalized Anxiety Disorder Symptoms

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The Ohio State University

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Recent research has demonstrated that effortful control (EC; an index of self-regulatory capacity) moderates the association between vulnerability factors and anxiety symptoms. One vulnerability for anxiety symptoms for which EC’s moderating impact has not yet been tested is insecure attachment. This study tested the hypothesis that attachment insecurity (both anxious and avoidant) should be more strongly associated with anxiety symptoms when EC was low versus high. Specifically this hypothesis was tested in the context of symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Well-established questionnaire measures of EC, anxiety, GAD symptoms, and attachment insecurity were collected from a sample of 301 undergraduates (ages 18 – 29, M = 19.3, SD = 1.49, 51% female). Regression analyses revealed that, for the most part, both anxious and avoidant attachment insecurity interacted significantly with EC in relation to both anxiety symptoms and GAD symptoms. The one exception was that avoidant attachment did not interact with EC to predict GAD symptoms. The general pattern was such that insecurity significantly predicted anxiety symptoms and GAD symptoms only when EC was low. These results suggest that self-regulatory capacity can help offset vulnerability for GAD symptoms associated with insecure (especially anxious) attachment.


2015 Deman Undergraduate Research Forum, Honorable Mention in Psychology
Social and Behavioral Sciences Research Grant
Undergraduate Research Office Summer Fellowship
Undergraduate Research Office Scholarship
Alkire Psychology Research Scholarship
2014 Psychology Undergraduate Research Colloquium, 2nd place


effortful control, attachment, anxiety, generalized anxiety disorder