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.
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A short form of the ACQ-C was subsequently developed that consists of the ten items found to be most representative of the full ACQ-C and that correlates with the ACQ-C at r = 0.95 (Weems 2005). We chose not to distinguish between the ACQ-C and the short form of the ACQ-C in our analyses as there were an insufficient number of studies to adequately test the short form of the ACQ-C as a moderator and, unlike the ACQ-R that identifies different facets of perceived control than the ACQ, both forms of the ACQ-C identify the same two facets of perceived control.
With the publication of DSM-5 (APA 2013), OCD and PTSD are no longer considered to be anxiety disorders and are instead classified within the Obsessive–Compulsive and Related Disorders and Trauma- and Stressor-Related Disorders categories, respectively.
References marked with an asterisk indicate studies included in the meta-analysis
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Conflict of Interest
Matthew W. Gallagher, Kate H. Bentley, and David H. Barlow declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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.
No animal studies were carried out by the authors for this article.
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Gallagher, M.W., Bentley, K.H. & Barlow, D.H. Perceived Control and Vulnerability to Anxiety Disorders: A Meta-analytic Review. Cogn Ther Res 38, 571–584 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10608-014-9624-x
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