An experimental manipulation of responsibility in children: a test of the inflated responsibility model of OCD

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The objective of this study was to investigate whether Salkovskis (1985) inflated responsibility model of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) applied to children. In an experimental design, 81 children aged 9–12 years were randomly allocated to three conditions: an inflated responsibility group, a moderate responsibility group, and a reduced responsibility group. In all groups children were asked to sort sweets according to whether or not they contained nuts. At baseline the groups did not differ on children's self reported anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive symptoms or on inflated responsibility beliefs. The experimental manipulation successfully changed children's perceptions of responsibility. During the sorting task time taken to complete the task, checking behaviours, hesitations, and anxiety were recorded. There was a significant effect of responsibility level on the behavioural variables of time taken, hesitations and check; as perceived responsibility increased children took longer to complete the task and checked and hesitated more often. There was no between-group difference in children's self reported state anxiety. The results offer preliminary support for the link between inflated responsibility and increased checking behaviours in children and add to the small but growing literature suggesting that cognitive models of OCD may apply to children.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)228-233
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2010

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