Understanding Early Vulnerabilities for Anxiety: Predictors of Self-Efficacy in Toddlers

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Title: Understanding Early Vulnerabilities for Anxiety: Predictors of Self-Efficacy in Toddlers
Author: Oppenheimer, Julia Erica, 1979-
Abstract: Self-efficacy, a proposed vulnerability for anxiety, is thought to be rooted in repeated experiences during children's early years. Few studies have directly examined how these beliefs and behavior patterns are manifested in early childhood despite the importance of infancy and toddlerhood as times of major cognitive, behavioral, and regulatory developments that may play a role in the etiology of psychopathology. Thus a primary goal of this dissertation was describing early self-efficacy, measured as a child's behavioral responses and coping capacity during an impossible task. Factor analyses identified a latent self-efficacy construct based on children's observed task persistence, strategies used during the task, and flexible use of strategies. Through a growth model analytic framework this construct was used to examine individual differences in toddler self-efficacy. A linear growth model demonstrated excellent fit and decreasing self-efficacy over time, as well as significant variability in toddlers' initial responses and behavioral trajectories across an impossible task. An additional aim of this dissertation was to identify important predictors and concomitants of toddler self-efficacy at 17 months. Using a structural equation model, paths between self-efficacy and maternal psychopathology, maternal behavior, infant temperament and social-emotional correlates were examined. Analysis of theorized predictors revealed greater maternal anxiety at 17 months was predictive of lower self-efficacy and increased social-emotional problems. Greater maternal acceptance, responsiveness, and non-intrusiveness during infancy were associated with greater self-efficacy and lower symptoms at 17 months, demonstrating a longitudinal impact of maternal behavior a year later. However, early self-efficacy demonstrated limited associations with toddlers, social-emotional problems. As such, maternal psychopathology and maternal sensitivity appeared to be important predictors of children's elevated symptoms and self-efficacy even at this early age despite nominal direct associations between children's self-efficacy and symptomatology. Results demonstrated a multi-faceted construct of self-efficacy in toddlers, encompassing both persistence and coping abilities. This early self-efficacy measurement expanded definitions of efficacy and measured self-efficacy in a younger population than has previously been studied. Early variations in self-efficacy linked to maternal sensitivity during infancy and maternal anxiety indicate the importance of longitudinal associations between risk factors and toddler outcomes for understanding self-efficacy. Clinical implications for assessment and prevention are considered.
Description: xix, 176 p. : ill. A print copy of this thesis is available through the UO Libraries. Search the library catalog for the location and call number.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1794/11930
Date: 2011-06


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