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Behav Res Ther. 2008 Dec;46(12):1266-74. doi: 10.1016/j.brat.2008.08.006. Epub 2008 Sep 9.

An examination of the interactions between mothers and children with anxiety disorders.

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  • 1Centre for Emotional Health, Department of Psychology, Macquarie University, NSW 2109, Australia.


This study examined the association between parenting styles and mother and child anxiety. Maternal overinvolvement and negativity/criticism were evaluated during a speech preparation task (N=135 dyads) and a Five Minute Speech Sample (FMSS) from mothers (N=155). During the speech task interaction, mothers of anxious children (aged 4-16 years), regardless of their own anxiety, were observed to be more overinvolved than mothers of nonanxious children. Similarly, the FMSS showed that mothers of anxious children (aged 4-17 years) were more overprotective, self-sacrificing, or nonobjective than mothers of nonanxious children, irrespective of maternal anxiety status. No differences in maternal negativity were found on the speech task between any of the groups. However, the FMSS showed that mothers of anxious children were more critical than mothers of nonanxious children, regardless of maternal anxiety status. These results support the relationship between overinvolved, critical parenting and child anxiety, but suggest that maternal anxiety is not associated with increased overinvolvement or criticism. Theoretical implications are discussed.

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