Measurement, Mechanisms, and Modification of Disgust: Implications for Anxiety-Related Disorders
Paxton, Megan Viar
The present line of research sought to examine mechanisms by which disgust may confer risk for anxiety within a developmental framework. The first aim was to develop and validate the Child Disgust Scale (CDS), a measure of disgust propensity designed specifically for children. Factor analyses revealed that a two-factor (i.e., Disgust Avoidance and Disgust Affect) bifactor model was the best fit for the data. The CDS was also shown to be adequately reliable and a valid measure of disgust proneness in children. The second aim examines the extent to which disgust proneness, as assessed by the CDS, and maternal disgust propensity, predicted the acquisition of maladaptive beliefs towards a novel animal that had been paired with disgust-related information. Results revealed that children were more avoidant of a disgust-paired animal compared to a clean-paired animal, especially among those reporting increased fear. Although trait Disgust Avoidance predicted fear acquisition, maternal disgust propensity did not moderate the association between disgust propensity and fear/disgust acquisition. Lastly, the effectiveness of a disgust-specific exposure intervention for specific phobia was examined. Results showed that repeated exposure to disgust-eliciting, but threat-irrelevant, stimuli in multiple contexts reduced phobic symptoms among injection-fearful individuals. Furthermore, this effect was comparable to exposure to threat-relevant stimuli. The present research provides insight into the measurement, mechanism(s), and modification of disgust as it relates to symptoms of anxiety-related disorders.