Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Efficacy of verbal self-regulation and in vivo exposure, as compared to placebo treatments, was tested in reduction of water avoidance in aquaphobic children. Forty-seven aquaphobic subjects were assigned to one of five conditions: (1) Self-talk with imaginal exposure (ST); (2) Self-talk with in vivo exposure (ST/E); (3) Attention Control with imaginal exposure (AC); (4) Attention Control with in vivo exposure (AC/E); (5) No Treatment Control (NTC). Children in the ST/E and AC/E groups demonstrated the greatest gains in reduction of avoidance, while those in the ST and ST/E groups showed greater gains in swim proficiency. As compared to the NTC, all treatment groups improved significantly in water approach behavior. Supplementary findings revealed low internal locus of control and a greater number of verbalizations of fear and avoidance to predict reduced improvement in reduction of avoidance. No significant predictors of swim proficiency were found. Self-rated motivation and efficacy were not predictive of improvement. Descriptive data based on parental report revealed males to be more fearful and sensitive than a normative sample, but less so than a phobic sample. Females were described as more fearful and sensitive than normals, but not less than phobics. It was concluded that self-talk and in vivo exposure can be of value when used as an adjunct to swim instructions and that measures of locus of control and subjective story responses can be effectively used as a screening tool to predict response to swim instruction.