Annihilation anxiety and parental representation in adolescence

Sharlene L Moore, Pace University


Research shows anxiety disorders are among the most common mental-health problems to occur during adolescence, indicating a need for research into anxiety disorders in this age group. Research in terms of parental representation supports that quality of attachment to the parental figure is correlatively related to emotional functioning. The current study investigated extreme anxiety in adolescence, in terms of Hurvich's theory of annihilation anxiety, measured by the Hurvich Experience Inventory, and how it correlates with adolescent's parental representations and aspects of the individuation process using Hart's Inventory of Parental Representation (IPR) and The Profile of Adolescent Depression and Individuation (PADI). The participants in this study consisted of 484 ninth through twelfth graders (246 females and 238 males) attending a public high school in Westchester County, New York. They were part of a larger longitudinal study conducted by Pace University from 1988-1993. The results indicated that most of the variables associated with parental representation, measured by the IPR, and with individuation and depression, measured by the PADI correlated significantly with level of annihilation anxiety. Both parental representation and aspects of individuation in adolescence can explain 35.9% (adjusted R square = 32.9%) of the total variance of annihilation anxiety. Both contributions are significant at the .01 level, which means that both parent representation and aspects of individuation in adolescence contribute significantly to level of annihilation anxiety. Aspects of individuation in adolescence was the strongest predictor of level of annihilation anxiety, accounting for 34.4% of the total variance. This study aids mental health professionals in intervention planning and helps the adolescent become more aware of how the nature of their primary attachments impact their attempts at separation and individuation as well as its impact on depression and counter-depressive defensive strategies, which can be a pathway to significant and positive therapeutic change.

Subject Area

Developmental psychology

Recommended Citation

Moore, Sharlene L, "Annihilation anxiety and parental representation in adolescence" (2009). ETD Collection for Pace University. AAI3350996.



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