Date of Award

10-1-2021

Publication Type

Thesis

Degree Name

M.A.

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

L.Rappaport

Second Advisor

R. Menna

Third Advisor

S.Woodruf-Aitkinson

Keywords

Adolescent, Anxiety, Anxiety sensitivity, Eating disorder symptoms

Rights

info:eu-repo/semantics/openAccess

Abstract

The present study examined common genetic and environmental contributions to the etiology of anxiety sensitivity, cognitive symptoms of eating disorders, and anxiety severity in a community sample of adolescents. I leveraged data from the Twins Early Development Study, a longitudinal epidemiological study of mono- and dizygotic twins born in England and Wales between 1994 and 1996. At age 16, families of twins (n=5,111) were assessed for anxiety sensitivity, cognitive symptoms of eating disorders (i.e., felt fat, fear of gaining weight, weight- and shape-influences thoughts about self), and anxiety severity. Strong phenotypic correlations among the four cognitive symptoms of eating disorder items were underpinned by correlated genetic and person-specific environmental contributions to all 4 symptoms; correlated genetic factors contributed particularly strongly to commonality among items. Genetic influences contributed to between-person variance in anxiety sensitivity, cognitive symptoms of eating disorders, and anxiety severity. Person-specific environmental influences contributed to the remaining variance in anxiety sensitivity and cognitive symptoms of eating disorders, while shared and person-specific environmental influences contributed to remaining variance in anxiety severity. Common genetic and person-specific influences contributed to the correlated liability to anxiety sensitivity, cognitive symptoms of eating disorders, and anxiety severity but did not explain the phenotypic correlation of anxiety severity with cognitive symptoms of eating disorders. These results suggest that genetic and environmental influences contribute to the etiology of anxiety sensitivity, cognitive symptoms of eating disorders, and anxiety severity. Further, as compared to anxiety severity, anxiety sensitivity may play a particularly prominent role in the etiology of cognitive symptoms of eating disorders in adolescence.

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