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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    • "As, to the authors' knowledge, this is the first study to empirically test this relationship; further research is required before conclusions can be drawn. However, given that the presence of parental anxiety has been hypothesised to exacerbate other parenting behaviours, such as overprotection (Hudson and Rapee, 2001), it is encouraging that challenging parenting behaviour may be relatively stable in the presence of parental psychopathology. Alternatively, it may be that challenging parenting behaviour may differ only for parents with clinical levels of anxiety. "
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    ABSTRACT: Background: This research investigates the relationship between challenging parenting behaviour and childhood anxiety disorders proposed by Bögels and Phares (2008). Challenging parenting behaviour involves the playful encouragement of children to go beyond their own limits, and may decrease children's risk for anxiety (Bögels and Phares, 2008). Method: Parents (n=164 mothers and 144 fathers) of 164 children aged between 3.4 and 4.8 years participated in the current study. A multi-method, multi-informant assessment of anxiety was used, incorporating data from diagnostic interviews as well as questionnaire measures. Parents completed self-report measures of their parenting behaviour (n=147 mothers and 138 fathers) and anxiety (n=154 mothers and 143 fathers). Mothers reported on their child's anxiety via questionnaire as well as diagnostic interview (n=156 and 164 respectively). Of these children, 74 met criteria for an anxiety disorder and 90 did not. Results: Fathers engaged in challenging parenting behaviour more often than mothers. Both mothers' and fathers' challenging parenting behaviour was associated with lower report of child anxiety symptoms. However, only mothers' challenging parenting behaviour was found to predict child clinical anxiety diagnosis. Limitations: Shared method variance from mothers confined the interpretation of these results. Moreover, due to study design, it is not possible to delineate cause and effect. Conclusions: The finding with respect to maternal challenging parenting behaviour was not anticipated, prompting replication of these results. Future research should investigate the role of challenging parenting behaviour by both caregivers as this may have implications for parenting interventions for anxious children.
    Full-text · Article · Jan 2016 · Journal of Affective Disorders
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    • "Overcontrolling parental behaviours include excessive regulation of children's activities and routines, overprotection, or instruction to the child on how to Contents lists available at ScienceDirect journal homepage: think or feel (Wood et al., 2003), and are hypothesised to promote child anxiety by limiting the child's development of mastery and autonomy (e.g., Hudson and Rapee, 2001). Parental expressed anxiety includes describing or encouraging children to view problems as catastrophic, irresolvable or dangerous (Wood et al., 2003), and behaving in a manner likely to alert children to threat in their environment (e.g., Gerull and Rapee, 2002). "
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    ABSTRACT: Background: High levels of parental anxiety are associated with poor treatment outcomes for children with anxiety disorders. Associated parental cognitions and behaviours have been implicated as impediments to successful treatment. We examined the association between parental responsibility beliefs, maternal anxiety and parenting behaviours in the context of childhood anxiety disorders. Methods: Anxious and non-anxious mothers of 7-12 year old children with a current anxiety disorder reported their parental responsibility beliefs using a questionnaire measure. Parental behaviours towards their child during a stressor task were measured. Results: Parents with a current anxiety disorder reported a greater sense of responsibility for their child's actions and wellbeing than parents who scored within the normal range for anxiety. Furthermore, higher parental responsibility was associated with more intrusive and less warm behaviours in parent-child interactions and there was an indirect effect between maternal anxiety and maternal intrusive behaviours via parental responsibility beliefs. Limitations: The sample was limited to a treatment-seeking, relatively high socio-economic population and only mothers were included so replication with more diverse groups is needed. The use of a range of stressor tasks may have allowed for a more comprehensive assessment of parental behaviours. Conclusions: The findings suggest that parental anxiety disorder is associated with an elevated sense of parental responsibility and may promote parental behaviours likely to inhibit optimum child treatment outcomes. Parental responsibility beliefs may therefore be important to target in child anxiety treatments in the context of parental anxiety disorders.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2015 · Journal of Affective Disorders
    • "offspring (Rapee 1997). Research has indeed demonstrated that overprotective parenting is associated with or even predictive of anxiety problems in youths (Edwards et al. 2010a; Hudson and Rapee 2001, 2002), and it has been suggested that this may be especially true in the preschool years (Lewis-Morrarty et al. 2012) when the family environment plays a dominant role in children's lives (Baumrind 1967). Besides parental influences that promote fear and anxiety in children, there may also be factors within the family that shield offspring from developing these emotional problems. "
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    ABSTRACT: The present study investigated the relationship between parental rough-and-tumble (R&T) play and young children’s anxiety symptoms. Parents of 105 non-clinical children (61 boys and 44 girls aged between 2 and 6 years) completed indices of childhood anxiety symptoms and parental trait anxiety and overprotection, as well as the Parental Play and Care Questionnaire, which was developed for the purpose of this study to assess parental R&T play and care activities. Results showed that fathers exhibited more R&T play towards their offspring, while mothers more often engaged in care activities. As predicted, trait anxiety and overprotection of mothers were positively related to child anxiety symptoms. No support was found for the idea that parental R&T play would be negatively related to childhood anxiety. However, an interaction effect of fathers’ trait anxiety and R&T play on anxiety symptoms of the child was found: children tended to display higher levels of anxiety symptoms when their low trait anxious fathers were more involved in R&T play. The results provide support for the notion that mothers and fathers have unique parenting roles, which may have a differential impact on the development of anxiety symptoms in children.
    No preview · Article · Sep 2015 · Journal of Child and Family Studies
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