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Behav Res Ther. 2003 May;41(5):541-54.

Parenting behaviors in parents with anxiety disorders.

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Maryland Center for Anxiety Disorders, Department of Psychology, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742, USA.


Anxiety disorders are familial, and although considerable evidence supports the role of genetic/biological parameters in their development, these alone do not entirely explain their etiology. In this study, the role of parenting behavior as a possible factor in the transmission of anxiety from parent to child was examined. Using interview, self-report, and direct behavioral observation, behaviors of parents with an anxiety disorder were compared to those of parents without an anxiety disorder on a number of dimensions, but particularly with respect to whether anxious parents actively inhibited their children from engaging in normal age appropriate activities. These behaviors were assessed during routine activities and in a structured non-conflictual play task. Although anxious parents did not overtly restrict their child's behavior in either type of activity, they reported higher levels of distress when their children were engaged in these activities. Similarly, the "emotional climate" in families with an anxious parent differed significantly from families without an anxious parent. The results are discussed in terms of how parenting behaviors might influence the development of maladaptive anxiety via social learning and information transfer, and their heuristic implications.

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