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J Anxiety Disord. 2010 Jan;24(1):102-8. doi: 10.1016/j.janxdis.2009.09.004.

Are children's own interpretations of ambiguous situations based on how they perceive their mothers have interpreted ambiguous situations for them in the past?

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  • 1University of Sussex, Brighton, BN1 9QH, UK. k.lester@sussex.ac.uk

Abstract

The intergenerational transmission of anxious cognitions and behaviors may be a possible mechanism underlying concordance between maternal and child anxieties. By disambiguating ambiguous situations for their child in a threatening manner, anxious mothers may 'train' their children towards a general tendency to also interpret ambiguity in a threatening way. Ninety-two children and their mothers completed trait anxiety measures. Children completed two ambiguous scenario questionnaires, to measure their own interpretations of ambiguous situations (ASQ-C) and to measure their expectations of their mother's interpretation and behavior in response to ambiguous situations involving them (ASQ-EM). Maternal and child anxiety were significantly correlated. Children who made threat interpretations also anticipated that their mother would disambiguate situations for them in a threatening way. The relationship between maternal anxiety and child threat cognitions was mediated by children's expectations of how their mother would disambiguate situations for them when taken together with children's trait anxiety. The present findings provide preliminary support for the suggestion that children of anxious mothers may learn to interpret and respond to ambiguous situations based on how their mothers have interpreted ambiguous situations for them in the past.

PMID:
19815372
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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