Date of Award

Summer 8-12-2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical Psychology (PhD)


Clinical Psychology

First Advisor/Committee Member

Thane M. Erickson

Second Advisor/Committee Member

John Thoburn

Third Advisor/Committee Member

Jacob Bentley


Individuals with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) symptoms endorse negative emotionality, psychosocial dysfunction, and biological dysregulation. Interpersonal dominance and affiliation have also been linked to GAD symptoms. Little research has examined individuals with GAD symptoms in terms of naturalistic stressors and chronic use of interpersonal behaviors. GAD symptoms, as well as lower dominance and affiliation, have been linked to hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) dysregulation. However, no studies have examined the unique and interacting contributions of GAD symptoms and interpersonal processes to chronic cortisol levels and distress. College students completed baseline measures of GAD symptoms, measures of interpersonal self-perceptions and distress for five weeks, then a lab visit to collect hair cortisol samples. I hypothesized that higher GAD symptoms and lower dominance and affiliation, would predict higher cortisol and psychological distress during interpersonal stressors. I expected that effects of dominance and affiliation on psychological and biological outcomes would be blunted for individuals higher in GAD symptoms. Results showed that GAD symptoms predicted higher distress and cortisol. Effects of interpersonal variables varied depending on whether they reflected aggregate mean levels or person-centered levels. Person-centered affiliation predicted lower distress, and blunted effects of GAD symptoms on distress. Mean level dominance predicted higher levels of both distress and cortisol. A marginally significant three-way interaction suggested the possibility that GAD symptoms combined with high dominance and low affiliation might predict the highest cortisol levels. Understanding the ways chronic use of interpersonal behaviors influence the relationship between GAD and negative outcomes may inform interventions for those with GAD symptoms.