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Theses Doctoral

Youth Reports of Psychological Maltreatment, Social Anxiety, and Aggression: Evaluating Rejection Sensitivity as a Mediator

Edwards, Aquilla

This study investigated two models evaluating rejection sensitivity as a mediator. One model examined rejection sensitivity as a mediator between caregiver psychological maltreatment and social anxiety, controlling for physical and sexual abuse. The second model tested rejection sensitivity as a mediator between psychological maltreatment and aggression, controlling for physical and sexual abuse. Of the different forms of child maltreatment, psychological maltreatment is proposed to be the strongest predictor of and have the most enduring impact on negative outcomes such as those evaluated in this study. To evaluate the impact of psychological maltreatment on these variables, a comprehensive measure of psychological maltreatment was used, and physical and sexual abuse were measured and controlled for. A total of 136 ninth grade boys attending an all-male Catholic high school in a low-income neighborhood were administered the Comprehensive Assessment of Psychological Maltreatment-Child Version (Brassard, Hart, Diaz, & Rivelis, 2011), Children's Rejection Sensitivity Questionnaire (Downey, Lebolt, Rincón, & Freitas, 1998), the Social Anxiety Scale for Adolescents (La Greca & Lopez, 1998), Youth Self Report Form-Aggression Scale (Achenbach, 1991), and the Parent-Child Conflict Tactics Scale (Straus, Hamby, Finkelhor, Moore, & Runyan, 1998). Analyses utilized the data of 117 subjects. Significant proportions of the sample reported high levels of psychological maltreatment (68% reported three or more behaviors at a significant level over the past year) and physical abuse (71% reported corporal punishment twice or more in the past year); 24% of the sample reported rejection sensitivity above the median of possible scores; 22% of the sample reported clinically significant levels of social anxiety; 14% of the sample reported borderline or clinically significant levels of aggression; 7% of all respondents reported either experiencing sexual abuse or did not respond to this item. Mediation hypotheses were tested using Hayes' (2013) conditional process analysis. The results supported both mediation models. In the model evaluating the relationship between psychological maltreatment and social anxiety through rejection sensitivity as a mediator, the indirect effect was determined to be significant based on a bias-corrected bootstrap confidence interval for the indirect effect (ab = .30) that was above zero (.004 to .730). The direct effect was not significant in this model, indicating that psychological maltreatment did not impact social anxiety independent of its effect on rejection sensitivity. The model explained 37.4% of the variance in social anxiety. The indirect effect for the model testing rejection sensitivity as a mediator between psychological maltreatment and aggression (ab = .04) was also found to be significant based on a bootstrap confidence interval above zero (.002 to .131). The direct effect in this model was significant, pointing to psychological maltreatment's influence on aggression independent of its effect on rejection sensitivity. The model explained 16.7% of the variance in aggression. Based on effect sizes, the sample size in this study was not adequate to establish sufficient (.80) power for mediation analyses. As this study is cross-sectional, the temporal sequence of the development of these constructs cannot be confirmed, though theory does suggest that psychological maltreatment leads to rejection sensitivity, social anxiety, and aggression and that rejection sensitivity precedes social anxiety and aggression. Implications for treatment and directions for future research were discussed.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
School Psychology
Thesis Advisors
Brassard, Marla
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
September 3, 2014