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An examination of the role of parental cognition in the relationships between parental anxiety and child anxiety

Wheatcroft, Rebecca; (2003) An examination of the role of parental cognition in the relationships between parental anxiety and child anxiety. Doctoral thesis (D.Clin.Psy), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

Child anxiety problems are one of the most common referrals to child and adolescent mental health services. Research has identified a number of risk factors for the development of childhood anxiety problems, including parental anxiety, an anxious child temperament, and parenting interactions. Parents of anxious children are more likely to be over-controlling, yet little is known as to what beliefs or cognitions underlie these behaviours. Research from the more extensively studied area of child externalising problems, has shown that parental cognitions predict parental behaviour, which subsequently maintains child misbehaviour. In child anxiety, some studies have begun to show that parental cognitions are related to the presence of anxiety disorders in school aged children. Given that parental anxiety is related to child anxiety, it is not known whether parents' anxiety influences their cognitions about their children, and whether this influences the existence of child anxiety problems. The present study examined the role of parental cognitions in the relationship between parental anxiety and child anxiety, in preschool children. In particular, it was hypothesised that parental cognitions would be related to both parental anxiety and child anxiety, and would mediate the relationship between these two variables. A community sample of 104 parents of children 3-5 years old completed questionnaires about their child's anxiety, their own anxiety, and three measures of parental cognitions. In addition, each child's nursery teacher completed questionnaire about the child's anxiety. The results suggested that parental anxiety was related to child anxiety. Parental anxiety was also related to parental cognitions, namely parental locus of control and parent control of child anxious mood and behaviour. Child anxiety was related to parent expectations of child anxious mood and behaviour, and parent control of child anxious mood and behaviour. However, parental cognitions were not found to mediate the relationship between parental anxiety and child anxiety. Rather, whilst parent control of anxious mood was uniquely related to both parental anxiety and child anxiety, parent control of anxious behaviour was only uniquely related to parental anxiety. The findings of the study have implications for the involvement of parents in interventions for child anxiety problems from as early as preschool age. They also highlight the importance of focusing on parental cognitions in the treatment of children with anxiety problems. In particular, addressing parental anxiety may help to increase parents' ability to change anxious children's avoidant behaviour.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: D.Clin.Psy
Title: An examination of the role of parental cognition in the relationships between parental anxiety and child anxiety
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest.
Keywords: Psychology; Anxiety
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10099222
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