Anxiety and depression are among the most common psychiatric disorders in childhood and adolescence (Costello, Egger, & Angold, 2005). Although the parental environment appears to play a role in the development of emotional disorders (e.g., Abramson & Alloy, 2006), cognitive styles within the families of adolescents with internalising disorders have received little attention. The main aim of this thesis was to increase the understanding of maternal cognitions in relation to internalising disorders experienced by adolescents. Specifically, maternal attributional style, catastrophic worries, selective attention and perceptions of adolescents' social competence were examined through a combination of cross-sectional, correlational and experimental designs in the programme of five studies conducted with a clinical sample. Three groups of adolescents and their mothers participated in the studies: adolescents with clinical internalising disorders, adolescents with clinical externalising disorders and a non-referred group of school-children along with their mothers. In support of the hypotheses, mothers of adolescents with clinical internalising disorders had more negative attributional biases than the mothers in the two control groups. When parental attributions were examined from the child's perspective, adolescents in the clinical internalising group perceived that their parents had more negative attributions than both control groups. Examination of maternal evaluations of adolescents' social skills, revealed that even though adolescents did not have social deficits according to objective ratings, mothers of adolescents with internalising disorders underestimated the performance of their children compared to the non-referred control group. Significant relationships were found between maternal and adolescent attributions and perceptions of social competence, suggesting a link between maternal and adolescent cognitive style. Furthermore, mothers of the clinical internalising group produced a greater number of worries which were more catastrophic in content than mothers in the control groups. Contrary to predictions, mothers of adolescents with clinical internalising disorders did not selectively attend to threatening information related to adolescents' behaviours. Analyses using combined data from the four studies that showed significant relationships provided evidence that different cognitions in mothers and their children are interrelated, highlighting the importance of interactions between various cognitions within the family. Additionally, attributional style, catastrophic worries and negative perceptions were found to discriminate families with adolescents with internalising disorders from those with adolescents with externalising disorders or non-referred adolescents. The studies included in this thesis extend the current literature on maternal cognitions and adolescent internalising disorders and suggest that mothers of adolescents with internalising disorders are characterised by cognitive biases that should be taken into consideration in both research and clinical practice.
|Date of Award||1 Aug 2012|
- The University of Manchester
|Supervisor||Christine Barrowclough (Supervisor) & Samantha Cartwright-Hatton (Supervisor)|
- adolescent, anxiety, depression,
- maternal cognitions, worries, attributions, perceptions, selective attention