To answer that question, researchers at King’s College, London, and the University of London, studied over 1,300 twins, using data from a longitudinal study. The twins were between the ages of 12 and 19 years old at the beginning of the study. The participants were instructed to answer questionnaires at four different points in time, at the onset of the study (Wave 1), eight months after the initial contact (Wave 2), and again 25 months after the second wave (Wave 3). The researchers assessed the anxiety sensitivity of the participants at Wave 1 and Wave 2 using the Child Anxiety Sensitivity Index (CASI) and at Wave 3, using the Anxiety Sensitivity Index, as the subjects were over 18 years of age at that time.
The team looked at both environmental and genetic constructs of sensitivity to anxiety beginning in early adolescence and continuing through adulthood. They realized that the genetic factors present at Wave 1 directly influenced the continuity of anxiety over Wave 2 and Wave 3. Additionally, emerging genetic influences at Wave 2 had an impact on symptoms present in Wave 3. The team noticed that environmental influences that were unique to each twin also developed at each wave. This led them to discover two key findings. “First, the moderate phenotypic correlations between variables at each time point suggests that anxiety sensitivity is relatively stable over time,” said the researchers. “Second, continuity of anxiety sensitivity was largely due to stable genetic influences.”
Their findings have significant implications. “First, in line with other studies, we found substantial phenotypic stability of anxiety sensitivity,” said the researchers. “This makes it a good candidate to focus on intervention studies on the prevention of disorders such as anxiety and depression.” They added, “Given the involvement of anxiety sensitivity in disorders such as anxiety and depression and the recent evidence suggesting the importance of it in the maintenance of anxiety symptoms, it is important to understand the developmental architecture of this cognitive bias.”
Zavos, H. M. S., Gregory, A. M., & Eley, T. C. (2011, August 15). Longitudinal Genetic Analysis of Anxiety Sensitivity. Developmental Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0024996
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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