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J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2010 Jul;51(7):772-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7610.2010.02227.x. Epub 2010 Feb 24.

Does childhood anxiety evoke maternal control? A genetically informed study.

Author information

  • 1Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Centre, Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, UK. thalia.eley@kcl.ac.uk



Despite theoretical and empirical support for an association between maternal control and child anxiety, few studies have examined the origins of this association. Furthermore, none use observer-ratings of maternal control within a genetically informative design. This study addressed three questions: 1) do children who experience maternal control report higher anxiety levels than those who do not?; 2) to what extent do genetic and environmental factors influence maternal control and child anxiety?; 3) to what extent do genetic and environmental factors influence the associations between child anxiety and maternal control?


Five hundred and thirty 8-year-old children (from 265 twin pairs) and their mothers were observed participating in an 'etch-a-sketch' task from which maternal control was rated. Children rated their anxiety using the Screen for Child Anxiety Related Emotional Disorders.


Children who experienced maternal behaviour rated as 'extreme control' reported higher anxiety levels than those who did not. Maternal control was highly heritable (A = .63), high self-rated anxiety less so (h(2)(g) = .36). The overlap between high child anxiety and maternal control was primarily due to shared genetic factors.


These results suggest that maternal control is likely to have been elicited by children with high levels of anxiety.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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