Parent-Child Interactions and Anxiety Disorders: An Observational Study

Department of Psychology, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia
Behaviour Research and Therapy (Impact Factor: 3.85). 01/2002; 39(12):1411-1427. DOI: 10.1016/S0005-7967(00)00107-8


Past research has indicated a potential link between anxiety and parenting styles that are characterised by control and rejection. However, few studies have utilised observational methods to support these findings. In the current study, mother–child interactions were observed while the child completed two difficult cognitive tasks. The sample consisted of clinically anxious children (n=43), oppositional defiant children (n=20) and non-clinical children (n=32). After adjusting for the age and sex of the child, mothers of anxious children and mothers of oppositional children displayed greater and more intrusive involvement than mothers of non-clinical children. Mothers of anxious children were also more negative during the interactions than mothers of non-clinical children. The differences between anxious and non-clinical interactions were equivalent across three separate age groups. The results support the relationship between an overinvolved parenting style and anxiety but question the specificity of this relationship.

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    • "First, self-report measures were used in the present study. Integrating multi-method approaches such as interviews for clinical symptoms and sociometric (Prinstein 2007) or observational data (Hudson and Rapee 2001) for interpersonal functioning is important for future research. With specific regard to interpersonal functioning , utilizing self-reports only allowed for inferences concerning youth perceptions of positive and negative relationships , as opposed to the actual quality of the relationship. "
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    ABSTRACT: Independent lines of research illustrate the benefits of social support and the negative consequences of conflict and emotional neglect across family and peer contexts with regard to depression. However, few studies have simultaneously examined negative and positive interactions across relationships. We sought to address this gap in the literature by utilizing a person-centered approach to a) understand empirical, interpersonal profiles in youth and b) understand how these profiles confer risk for prospective depression. At baseline, 678 youth (380 females; 298 males) 3rd (N = 208), 6th (N = 245), and 9th graders (N = 225) completed self-report measures for self-perceived negative/positive relationships across family and peers, anxiety symptoms, and depressive symptoms in a laboratory setting. Next, youth were called every 3 months for 18 months and completed self-report depressive and anxiety symptom forms. Two-step cluster analyses suggested that children and adolescents fell into one of three interpersonal clusters, labeled: Support, Conflict, and Neglect. Our analyses supported a convergence model in which the quality of relationship was consistent across peers and family. Furthermore, mixed-level modeling (MLM) findings demonstrated that youth in the Conflict cluster were at increased risk for prospective depressive symptoms, while the Supported and Neglected profiles demonstrated similar symptom levels. Findings were unique to depressive symptoms and consistent across sex and age. Conflict seemed to uniquely confer risk for depression as findings concerning anxiety were not significant. These findings influence our interpersonal conceptualization of depression as well as clinical implications for how to assess and treat depression in youth.
    Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology 04/2015; DOI:10.1007/s10802-015-0023-x · 3.09 Impact Factor
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    • "Although the tasks in the present study are commonly used as mild stressors (e.g. Hudson and Rapee, 2001), it is possible that several factors might have led to lower anxiety levels than was anticipated by the present task designs. Possible reasons for this include: (i) children were told that no one would be able to watch the video of their presentation apart from the research assistant; (ii) children's mothers remained present during both tasks and were able to help their child when needed; and (iii) children in the anxious groups had already visited the location of the research assessment on a previous visit for their clinical assessment. "
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    ABSTRACT: Psychophysiological theories suggest that individuals with anxiety disorders may evidence inflexibility in their autonomic activity at rest and when responding to stressors. In addition, theories of social anxiety disorder, in particular, highlight the importance of physical symptoms. Research on autonomic activity in childhood (social) anxiety disorders, however, is scarce and has produced inconsistent findings, possibly because of methodological limitations. The present study aimed to account for limitations of previous studies and measured respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) and heart rate (HR) using Actiheart heart rate monitors and software (Version 4) during rest and in response to a social and a non-social stressor in 60 anxious (30 socially anxious and 30 'other' anxious), and 30 nonanxious sex-and age-matched 7-12 year olds. In addition, the effect of state anxiety during the tasks was explored. No group differences at rest or in response to stress were found. Importantly, however, with increases in state anxiety, all children, regardless of their anxiety diagnoses showed less autonomic responding (i.e., less change in HR and RSA from baseline in response to task) and took longer to recover once the stressor had passed. This study focused primarily on parasympathetic arousal and lacked measures of sympathetic arousal. The findings suggest that childhood anxiety disorders may not be characterized by inflexible autonomic responding, and that previous findings to the contrary may have been the result of differences in subjective anxiety between anxious and nonanxious groups during the tasks, rather than a function of chronic autonomic dysregulation. Copyright © 2014 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
    Journal of Affective Disorders 12/2014; 175C:25-33. DOI:10.1016/j.jad.2014.11.056 · 3.38 Impact Factor
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    • "Accommodation refers to parental behaviors that are functionally related to parental overprotection, a parenting style that has been extensively evaluated in the context of anxious children. Parents of anxious children, with mothers being the most frequently studied, are more likely than parents of non-anxious children to use an overprotective style which emphasizes parental " control " behaviors, such as intrusive involvement and low autonomygranting during children's age-appropriate activities (Hudson & Rapee, 2001; McLeod, Wood, & Weisz, 2007; Rapee, 2001). Just as parental accommodation of child anxiety tends to maintain anxious avoidance over time through negative reinforcement, a parental overprotection style is thought to reduce a child's distress in the short-term, but reinforce anxiety over the long term. "
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    ABSTRACT: Parental accommodation—i.e., changes in parents’ behavior in attempts to prevent or reduce child distress—has been most studied in relation to OCD. Although recent work suggests parents of children with non-OCD anxiety diagnoses also engage in accommodation, little is known about the specific forms, correlates, and associated interference of such accommodation. The present study examined the range and associated interference of parental accommodation behaviors using the newly developed Family Accommodation Checklist and Interference Scale (FACLIS) in a sample of the parents of 71 clinic-referred children with anxiety disorders (NMothers = 68; NFathers= 51). The FACLIS demonstrated good reliability and validity. Ninety-seven percent of mothers and 88% of fathers reported engaging in at least one type of accommodation in the previous two weeks, with parents reporting an average of roughly 4 interfering parental accommodation behaviors. Greater parental accommodation and associated interference were associated with higher maternal distress. Among the anxiety disorders, accommodation was most strongly associated with generalized and separation anxiety disorder, as well as specific phobias. Findings (a) offer psychometric support for the FACLIS as a reliable and valid tool for the assessment of accommodation range and impact, and (b) help clarify the considerable scope and interference associated with parental accommodation of childhood anxiety.
    Journal of Anxiety Disorders 09/2014; 28(8). DOI:10.1016/j.janxdis.2014.09.007 · 2.96 Impact Factor
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