Published:  2017-04-01

The role of stress reactivity in the long-term persistence of adolescent social anxiety symptoms

Authors:  S. A. Nelemans, W. W. Hale III, S. J. T. Branje, P. A. C. van Lier, H. M. Koot, W. H. J. Meeus

Tags:  Adolescence, Developmental processes, Public speaking task, Social anxiety disorder (SAD) symptoms, Stress reactivity

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Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) symptoms demonstrate a marked persistence over time, but little is known empirically about short-term processes that may account for this long-term persistence. In this study, we examined how self-reported and physiological stress reactivity were associated with persistence of SAD symptoms from early to late adolescence. A community sample of 327 adolescents (56% boys, Mage=13.01 at T1) reported their SAD symptoms for 6 successive years and participated in a public speaking task, during which self-reported (i.e., perceived nervousness and heart rate) and physiological (i.e., cortisol and heart rate) measures of stress were taken. Overall, our results point to a developmental process in which adolescents with a developmental history of higher SAD symptoms show both heightened perceived stress reactivity and heart rate reactivity, which, in turn, predict higher SAD symptoms into late adolescence.