Activation During Observed Parent–Child Interactions with Anxious Youths: A Pilot Study

Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment (Impact Factor: 1.55). 06/2011; 33(2):159-170. DOI: 10.1007/s10862-011-9216-y
Source: PubMed


Parent-child interaction paradigms are often used to observe dysfunctional family processes; however, the influence of such tasks on a participant's level of activation remain unclear. The aim of this pilot project is to explore the stimulus value of interaction paradigms that have been commonly used in child anxiety research. Twenty-nine parent-child dyads with clinically anxious (n = 16) and non-anxious (n = 13) youths engaged in a series of tasks (threat and non-threat) used in previous studies of parenting and youth anxiety. Heart rate (HR) data, as an indicator of physiological activation, were collected across tasks, and participants rated the perceived representativeness of their interactions in the laboratory to their usual behavior at home. Significant HR changes were observed for both parent and child. Change in child HR from baseline to non-threat task was smaller than change in HR from baseline to threat tasks. Change in parent HR from baseline to ambiguous situations tasks was smaller than changes from baseline to other threat tasks. Differences in HR change between anxious and non-anxious children were explored. Participants rated laboratory interactions as similar to those experienced in the home. Results suggest that presumably emotionally-charged discussion tasks may produce increased activation compared to tasks that were designed to be more neutral. Implications for future research and limitations are discussed.

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Available from: Araceli Gonzalez
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