Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology


Department of Psychology


Objective: Current treatment models of Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) emphasise maladaptive worry cognitions in the aetiology and maintenance of the disorder. However, although worry cognitions are often relational in content, interpersonal and developmental concomitants of the disorder have been neglected incontemporary research. New models of treatment are urgently needed as current evidence suggests that over half of those treated with the current best practice therapies gain only limited help and remain symptomatic. This study adopts an interpersonal attachment perspective to studying GAD to examine the purported links between adult cognitive, interpersonal and emotional functioning and the related perceptions of early family environment. Method: Study 1 (quantitative, N=100) investigated 50 participants with GAD compared with 50 normal control participants matched by age, sex and marital status. The measures investigated symptoms of GAD, alexithymia, interpersonal factors, parental bonding, attachment and relationship patterns. Study 2 (qualitative, N=12 GAD) explored pervasive relationship themes in childhood experiences. Results: Study 1 found that GAD participants had more emotional andinterpersonal difficulties than controls. Fearful and preoccupied attachment sub-types were associated with these interpersonal difficulties, which may predispose worry. Study 2 found that these interpersonal patterns related sensibly to perceptions of early family environments. Six pervasive early childhood themes provided insight into possible GAD vulnerability. Conclusion: There is a need to consider specific interpersonal concomitants into the clinical picture of GAD. The proposed developmental/interpersonal model needs replication. It may be important to incorporate an interpersonal and emotional component to the treatment of GAD.



Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.