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J Clin Child Adolesc Psychol. 2012;41(1):64-74. doi: 10.1080/15374416.2012.632347.

A sequential analysis of parent-child interactions in anxious and nonanxious families.

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  • 1Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, University of Louisville, Louisville, KY 40292, USA.


Although theoretical work has suggested that reciprocal behavior patterns between parent and child may be important in the development of childhood anxiety, most empirical work has failed to consider the bidirectional nature of interactions. The current study sought to address this limitation by utilizing a sequential approach to exploring parent-child interactions. Participants included 161 children (ages 3-12 years) and their parents. Parent and child dyads were classified into four categories: anxious parent-anxious child (n = 45), anxious parent-nonanxious child (n = 45), nonanxious parent-anxious child (n = 21), and nonanxious parent-nonanxious child (n = 50). Parent and child behaviors were coded from two 10-min interactions. Results indicated that anxious parents of children with anxiety disorders were more likely to respond with negative behaviors, which their child then mirrored. Nonanxious parents of nonanxious children responded with more warmth, which was then mirrored by their child. These results provide evidence for differential patterns of behaviors between anxious and nonanxious parents and children following critical moments in their interactions.

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