The Association Between Intolerance of Uncertainty, Emotion Dysregulation, and Anxiety in Italian Non-Clinical Pre-Adolescents and Adolescents

Sara Iannattone, Anna Malerba, Chiara Carloni, Alessandra Farina, Valentina Cardi, Gioia Bottesi


Background: Anxiety symptoms are rather frequent in adolescence and associated with long-term negative consequences. Therefore, expanding knowledge on the factors that may underlie anxiety symptomatology is extremely relevant; to this end, intolerance of uncertainty and emotion dysregulation are of key interest. This study aimed to deepen the relation between intolerance of uncertainty and emotion regulation difficulties and to explore the role of these constructs in explaining anxiety levels in adolescence.

Methods: Three hundred and fifty Italian non-clinical pre-adolescents and adolescents (age range: 11-17, 53.4% boys) entered the study between November 2021 and March 2022. We administered an online survey containing the Difficulties in Emotion Regulation Scale, Intolerance of Uncertainty Scale-Revised, Self-Administered Psychiatric Scales for Children and Adolescents-Anxiety scale, and Depression Anxiety Stress Scales-21. Pearson’s correlations were calculated to examine the relation between intolerance of uncertainty, emotion dysregulation dimensions, and different anxiety symptoms. A hierarchical linear regression was performed to test the predictive role of intolerance of uncertainty and specific emotion regulation strategies on generalized anxiety symptoms.

Results: All emotion dysregulation dimensions, except Awareness, were significantly correlated with intolerance of uncertainty and the different anxiety manifestations. Intolerance of uncertainty was associated with all anxiety symptoms, but to a greater extent with generalized and school-related anxiety. Finally, both intolerance of uncertainty and specific emotion dysregulation dimensions (i.e., Goals and Strategies) predicted generalized anxiety symptoms; however, the emotion dysregulation block led to a higher increase in explained variance than intolerance of uncertainty did.

Conclusion: Intolerance of uncertainty, emotion dysregulation, and anxiety symptoms emerged to be strictly associated. Moreover, the contribution of both intolerance of uncertainty and specific emotion regulation difficulties to the putative development of generalized anxiety in adolescence has been tentatively supported. Particularly, emotion dysregulation seems to play a more relevant role in generalized anxiety compared to intolerance of uncertainty. 


Adolescence; Anxiety; Emotion dysregulation; Intolerance of uncertainty; Transdiagnostic factors.

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