Date of Completion

Spring 5-1-2014

Thesis Advisor(s)

Kimberli Treadwell

Honors Major



Clinical Psychology | Experimental Analysis of Behavior | Personality and Social Contexts


Anxiety disorders increase in prevalence from childhood into adulthood. Although cognitive theories are prominent in the etiology and maintenance of anxiety, peer relationships are emerging as salient interpersonal risk factors. This study investigates the effects of specific interpersonal interchanges on anxiety symptoms in college students. 60 undergraduates attended the experiment with a same-sex best friend, and were randomly assigned to the co-worry or neutral conversation condition. Each person completed self-report measures of state anxiety, negative affect and positive affect prior to and following an 8-minute conversation about self-generated worry topics such as exams or neutral topics such as the weather. Conversations were videotaped for coding. Results analyzed pre- to post-conversation anxiety and affect to examine whether worrying with a friend, termed co-worry, increased state anxiety and negative affect compared to the control condition. A 2 (within subject variable of time) by 2 (between subjects factor of experimental condition) repeated measures ANCOVA was conducted with state anxiety, negative affect, and positive affect as the dependent variables. A significant interaction across time was noted for state anxiety, F(1, 104) = 11.62, p = .001, negative affect, F(1, 108) = 4.40, p = .038, and positive affect, F(1, 108) = 4.74, p = .032. Participants in the neutral condition evidenced a decrease in state anxiety and negative affect across time and an increase in positive affect, whereas participants in the worry condition maintained a more negative anxious mood state across time.