Cognitive Therapy and Research

, Volume 38, Issue 6, pp 571–584 | Cite as

Perceived Control and Vulnerability to Anxiety Disorders: A Meta-analytic Review

  • Matthew W. Gallagher
  • Kate H. Bentley
  • David H. Barlow
Original Article


Contemporary theories of psychopathology suggest a lack of perceived control as central to the experience of negative emotion and to be particularly relevant to the development of anxiety disorders. The present study meta-analytically reviewed the relationship between perceived control and both trait and disorder-specific measures of anxiety in order to determine whether current evidence is consistent with perceived control functioning as a transdiagnostic vulnerability factor. A comprehensive literature review identified 51 studies with a total of 11,218 participants that were determined to meet eligibility criteria. The mean effect sizes between perceived control and trait measures of anxiety (k = 29) and disorder specific measures of anxiety (k = 37) were calculated using random-effects methods. Results indicated a large, negative association between perceived control and both trait measures of anxiety and disorder-specific measures of anxiety, with the largest associations being between perceived control and generalized anxiety disorder. Moderator analyses indicated that the associations between perceived control and trait anxiety were greater in adults than children, and varied across different measures of perceived control. These results underscore the importance of perceived control as a transdiagnostic vulnerability factor across the anxiety disorders.


Perceived control Anxiety Vulnerability Meta-analysis Transdiagnostic 


Conflict of Interest

Matthew W. Gallagher, Kate H. Bentley, and David H. Barlow declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Informed Consent

All procedures followed were in accordance with the ethical standards of the responsible committee on human experimentation (national and institutional). Informed consent was obtained from all individual subjects participating in the study.

Animal Rights

No animal studies were carried out by the authors for this article.


References marked with an asterisk indicate studies included in the meta-analysis

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York (outside the USA) 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matthew W. Gallagher
    • 1
    • 2
  • Kate H. Bentley
    • 3
  • David H. Barlow
    • 3
  1. 1.Behavioral Science Division, National Center for PTSDVA Boston Healthcare SystemBostonUSA
  2. 2.Boston University School of MedicineBostonUSA
  3. 3.Center for Anxiety and Related DisordersBoston UniversityBostonUSA

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