Date of Award

Summer 2012

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)




Virginia Consortium Program in Clinical Psychology

Committee Director

Janice Zeman

Committee Member

Danielle Dallaire

Committee Member

Joseph Galano

Committee Member

Desideria Hacker

Committee Member

Clifford Hatt


Somatic symptoms are a common experience of childhood and research suggests that specific populations, including girls and children who are African-American, may be more likely to experience and report somatic complaints. Although seen in developmentally typical populations, somatic symptoms are also often strongly linked with general psychopathology, especially internalizing disorders. The etiology of somatic symptoms is unclear, with the current literature suggesting various contributing causes. One such contributing factor includes emotional factors such as the management of emotional arousal through emotion inhibition, coping, and dysregulation. Using an African-American sample of 136 elementary school-aged children (47% boys) and their parents (86% mothers), this study examined the relations between three methods of emotion regulation (i.e., coping, inhibition, dysregulation) of three types of emotion (i.e., anger, sadness, worry), somatic symptoms, and internalizing symptoms to determine if emotion regulation mediates the relations between somatic symptoms and internalizing symptoms. Data were analyzed following the steps of Baron and Kenny's (1986) specified for mediational analyses. Only one mediation model was significant. Specifically, for girls, worry dysregulation mediated the relation between somatic symptoms and internalizing symptoms. Support for several direct links between somatic symptoms, methods of emotion regulation, and internalizing symptomatology were also found. Specifically, the experience of somatic symptoms was related to certain methods of regulating emotion, including girls' inhibition of anger and sadness, and managing emotion regulation in certain ways, such as boys' dysregulating sadness, was predictive of internalizing symptoms. The results suggest that examination of separate emotions is important since differences were found based on type of emotion and specific method of emotion regulation. Additionally, by using a multi-reporter method, the study demonstrated that parent and child reports differed regarding perceptions of symptomatology. Future research should include longitudinal methodology to further examine the mediating role of other aspects of emotion regulation in the relations between somatic and internalizing symptoms and provide more focus on low SES, African-American samples.


A Dissertation Submitted to the Faculties of The College of William and Mary, Eastern Virginia Medical School, Norfolk State University, Old Dominion University in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Psychology through the Virginia Consortium Program in Clinical Psychology.