Honors College
 

Document Type

Honors Thesis

Publication Date

Spring 2019

Abstract

Anxiety symptoms can often be experienced as a silent struggle in adolescence, as many anxious adolescents do not exhibit outward symptoms. Identifying adolescents who are struggling with subthreshold anxiety symptoms can be even more difficult. As adolescence is a time where friendships become primary sources for emotional support, youth who experience anxiety symptoms and associated distress may have trouble navigating close relationships with peers. The current study aims to investigate the relations between adolescents’ anxiety symptoms and their friendship functioning, as well as the impact of their anxiety symptoms on friends’ emotional adjustment. Data were taken from a larger project on adolescent friendships and emotional adjustment, approved by the University of Maine Institutional Review Board (IRB). Participants (N = 186) were nested within 93 same-gender friendship dyads and were between 13 and 19 years of age. Dyads’ emotional adjustment and friendship functioning were assessed concurrently and after 3 months. Self-report measures of anxiety symptoms, friendship quality, and depressive symptoms were gathered. Descriptive statistics, mean-level gender differences, and correlations among study variables were computed, and dyadic data analyses tested primary hypotheses of interest. Results indicated that anxiety symptoms were not associated with lower levels of positive friendship quality. Additionally, although friends were similar to one another in terms of anxiety symptoms, results did not support evidence of anxiety contagion over 3 months. Future research should test for anxiety contagion across a longer period of time (e.g., 1 year), and studies of adolescent anxiety should continue to control for depressive symptoms to account for the overlap in symptomatology between depressive and anxiety symptoms. This study contributes to the existing literature on the impact of adolescents’ internalizing symptoms on friendships and the emotional adjustment of friends.

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