Previous studies have shown that children and adolescents who report high levels of test anxiety also report symptoms of, and meet clinical criteria for, emotion disorders (anxiety and depression). However, the directionality of this relation cannot be established from existing studies: Is high test anxiety predisposing persons at elevated risk for developing emotion disorders or vice versa? In the present study, we addressed this question in a sample of adolescents. In addition to the risk of developing an emotion disorder, based on the Dual Factor Model of Mental Health, we also considered school-related wellbeing.
Self-reported data were collected over two waves from 1198 participants, aged 16–19 years, in upper secondary education.
Data were analysed using a structural equation model controlling for gender and age. We found reciprocal relations between test anxiety and elevated risk for developing emotion disorders, and between school-related wellbeing and elevated risk for developing emotion disorders. School-related wellbeing was negatively related to subsequent test anxiety but not vice versa.
Our findings imply that there would be downstream benefits to improved mental health from using interventions to address test anxiety but also, from addressing emotion disorders, to improve school-related wellbeing and test anxiety.