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Child anxiety; The intolerance of uncertainty scale in children


Childanxiety The intolerance of uncertainty scale in children

Childanxiety: The intolerance of uncertainty scale in children

Intoleranceof uncertainty in children has been defined as the unwillingness tobear the fact that a negative event might occur in the future(Koerner &amp Dugas, 2006). Intolerance of uncertainty has largelybeen associated with anxiety and fear as children get worried on whatmight happen next. It is vital to point out that different childrenwill respond differently to situations that seem uncertain. It is anormal occurrence to have uncertain situations in every-day life.Whereas some people might not be concerned with the uncertainty of anevent, other will portray elements of fear and anxiety when they faceuncertainty or unpredictability (McKayetal,2011).Such people, including children, who portray fear and anxiety aresaid to have an intolerance of uncertainty. The intolerance ofuncertainty scale is a measure that determines to what extent peoplehave the intolerance to uncertainty. This type of measure has beensaid to be extremely effective as it comprises various psychometricproperties that measure psychological aspects.

Intoleranceof uncertainty has been linked to the symptoms of generalized anxietydisorder and the obsessive compulsive disorder in adults. Whereasmuch study has been conducted on the intolerance of uncertainty inadults, little has been done in regard to children. However, it isimperative to note that children are affected by IU just as adults.IU in children is responsible for the development of anxiety, just asit is in adults (Koerner &amp Dugas, 2006). Despite the littleresearch conducted on the IU scale in children this paper seeks toexplore it and its connection to child anxiety.

Moreoften than not, people will respond to uncertain situationsnegatively where they depict elements of negative cognitions,emotions and behavior (McKayetal,2011).It is vital to note that different people will respond differently touncertain situations despite the fact that uncertainty carries anegative connotation. Research has indicated that individuals withanxiety portray high levels of IU. IU plays a critical role in thedevelopment of certain anxiety disorders such the generalized anxietydisorder and the obsessive-compulsive disorder. Children who sufferthis anxiety disorder tend to engage in cognitive and mentalbehaviors that are aimed at reducing anxious experience. Thetechniques that children employ to deal with IU include worrying,avoidance of uncertain situations, engaging in compulsions and alsothe central symptoms general anxiety disorder (McKayetal,2011).It is therefore clear that intolerance of uncertainty is significantin the development of anxiety in children.

Thereis a significant link between intolerance of uncertainty and anxietyin children. Research has indicated that children with anxiety haveportrayed fear, which they use as a tool to try and controluncertainty. Children, who worry about uncertain future events areseen as trying to gain control, prevent or prepare for theunpredictable or uncertain event and its consequences (Muris,2007).It is critical to point out that additional research has indicatedthat some individuals would rather expect a negative event ratherthan have uncertainty of the future. Uncertainty has been viewed asbeing dangerous, intolerable and as a situation which is hard to dealwith (Koerner &amp Dugas, 2006). It is also imperative to point thatindividuals suffering from anxiety will continue to worry about anuncertain event until its probability to occur reduces to zero. Inother words, any probability that an uncertain event will occurcreates impeccable fear in people who cannot tolerate uncertainty.

Researchhas also indicated that increase in IU directly leads to an increasein worry and anxiety. In addition, the research also indicates thattreatment in anxiety disorder which leads to its reduction will bepreceded by a decrease in IU. This is a clear indication that IU isdirectly linked to anxiety. According Koerner &amp Dugas (2006),intolerance of uncertainty contributes to bias in informationprocessing which in turn results to worry. Such negative biases mayinclude hypervigilance, as well as negative evaluative basis.Intolerance of uncertainty leads to bias in the evaluation of events,which leads to the formation of worry. This limits the ability of theindividual with IU from applying problem solving skills and forceshim or her to practice cognitive avoidance (Koerner &amp Dugas,2006). Due to the bias that children with intolerance of uncertaintyhave, they interpret ambiguous or uncertain situations as dangerousand threating. This biased interpretation leads to extreme worryabout the uncertain situation as well as the possible consequences.

Whereasintolerance of uncertainty scale is linked to anxiety in children, itis also associated with other processes such as cognitive avoidance,positive notion about fear and negative problem orientation (Muris,2007).Children with anxiety disorders hold a positive belief in regard toworry. They believe that worry will reduce emotional reactions suchdisappointment and surprise to future, uncertain events. In addition,people with anxiety also believe that worry enables an individual tosolve a problem more effectively and also it change the course ofevents such as uncertain events (Borkovec etal,2009). Lastly, children with anxiety and fear believe that worry willgive them control of uncertain situations or events in the event theyoccur. It is evident that all these aspects about positive belief inregard to fear are associated with uncertainty of the future andtherefore are a manifestation of the intolerance of the uncertaintyscale (Borkovec etal,2009).

Extensivestudies by Koerner &amp Dugas (2006) have indicated that there is alink between anxiety and negative problem orientation. Individualswith anxiety about uncertain events in the future tend to regardproblems as threat and they lack confidence in their problem solvingskills. Children with anxiety of worry believe that their problemsolving skills will not yield positive results and they tend to befrustrated and annoyed with the process of problem solving. It isevident that problems have uncertain outcomes and therefore childrenwith an intolerance of uncertainty tend to view problems as threats.Anxiety is also associated with cognitive avoidance, which are thecognitive strategies aimed at avoiding any distressing thoughts ormental images (Muris,2007).It is critical to point out that cognitive avoids offers a temporaryrelief from unwanted thoughts and threatening mental imagery.However, cognitive avoidance has a negative inclination in that itprevents emotional processing, hence fostering and maintaininganxiety (Borkovec etal,2009). As mentioned above, children who experience intolerance ofuncertainty tend to view unpredictable situations as threatening. Asa consequence, such children experience threatening thoughts, as wellas mental images hence they tend to practice cognitive avoidance.

Theintolerance of uncertainty scale in children is in form ofquestionnaires, which are designed and largely administered tochildren aged 7-14 years. The questionnaires are aimed at determiningthe extent to which children is this age bracket can deal withuncertainty. It is vital to note that the parents are not supposed toaid the children unless need arises. Such need may include reading aquestionnaire to a child, but not directing the child on what toanswer (Borkovec etal,2009). The child IUS-C is based on the adult scale and uses itemssimilar to those in the adult version, but in a language that thechildren can understand. The intolerance of uncertainty in childrenis also administered in the parent’s version who answers questionsregarding to their children (Koerner &amp Dugas, 2006). Itemsrelating to IU that can be used in IUS-C may include the emotionaland the behavioral effects of being uncertain, how uncertaintyaffects a person’s character, as well as the attempts applied tocontrol the future.

TheIUS-C Child and parent that have been conducted indicated that theintolerance of uncertainty in adults is similar to that in children.Children indicated fear of the uncertain events to them and also tothe parents. For instance, there was fear of the uncertain at schoolsuch as examinations and public speaking. It has largely been arguedthat intolerance of uncertainty in children underlies anxiety.However, it is vital to note that it cannot be disputed that theconstruct may be underlying other forms of psychopathology.

Theintolerance to uncertainty scale Child, administered to the parentshould be relied upon since it offers more accurate information thanthe one answered by the children. Researchers warn that a child of 7years may not in a position to answer questions that relate to theirinternal states such as cognitions and responses regardingintolerance of uncertainty (Borkovec etal,2009). It is imperative to note that the child’s level of cognitivedevelopment and language skills can affect how he or she answers thequestions in regard to his or her intolerance to uncertainty.


Borkovec,T.D., Alcaine, O.M., &amp Behar, E. (2009). AvoidanceTheory of Worry and Generalized Anxiety Disorder.New York: Guilford Press.

Koerner,N., &amp Dugas, M.J. (2006). Acognitive model of generalized anxiety disorder: the role ofintolerance of uncertainty.West Sussex, England: John Wiley &amp Sons.

Muris,P. (2007).&nbspNormaland abnormal fear and anxiety in children and adolescents. Amsterdam: Elsevier

McKay,D., Storch, E. A., &amp Haight, C. (2011).&nbspHandbookof child and adolescent anxiety disorders.New York: Springer