Trickle-down anxiety: Study examines parental behaviors that create anxious children
Parents with social anxiety disorder are more likely than parents with other forms of anxiety to engage in behaviors that put their children at high risk for developing angst of their own, according to a small study of parent-child pairs conducted at Johns Hopkins Children's Center.
Authors of the federally funded study say past research has linked parental anxiety to anxiety in children, but it remained unclear whether people with certain anxiety disorders engaged more often in anxiety-provoking behaviors. Based on the new study findings, they do. A report on the team's findings appears online ahead of print in the journal Child Psychiatry and Human Development.
Specifically, the Johns Hopkins researchers identified a subset of behaviors in parents with social anxiety disorder—the most prevalent type of anxiety—and in doing so clarified some of the confusion that has shrouded the trickle-down anxiety often seen in parent-child pairs.
These behaviors included a lack of or insufficient warmth and affection and high levels of criticism and doubt leveled at the child. Such behaviors, the researchers say, are well known to increase anxiety in children and—if engaged in chronically—can make it more likely for children to develop a full-blown anxiety disorder of their own, the investigators say.
"There is a broad range of anxiety disorders so what we did was home in on social anxiety, and we found that anxiety-promoting parental behaviors may be unique to the parent's diagnosis and not necessarily common to all those with anxiety," says study senior investigator Golda Ginsburg, Ph.D., a child anxiety expert at Johns Hopkins Children's Center and professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.
The Johns Hopkins team emphasizes that the study did not directly examine whether the parents' behaviors led to anxiety in the children, but because there is plenty of evidence they do, the researchers say physicians who treat parents with social anxiety should be on alert about the potential impact on offspring.
"Parental social anxiety should be considered a risk factor for childhood anxiety, and physicians who care for parents with this disorder would be wise to discuss that risk with their patients," Ginsburg said.
Anxiety is the result of a complex interplay between genes and environment, the researchers say, and while there's not much to be done about one's genetic makeup, controlling external factors can go a long way toward mitigating or preventing anxiety in the offspring of anxious parents.
"Children with an inherited propensity to anxiety do not just become anxious because of their genes, so what we need are ways to prevent the environmental catalysts—in this case, parental behaviors—from unlocking the underlying genetic mechanisms responsible for the disease," Ginsburg says.
The researchers analyzed interactions between 66 anxious parents and their 66 children, ages 7 to 12. Among the parents, 21 had been previously diagnosed with social anxiety, and 45 had been diagnosed with another anxiety disorder, including generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder. The parent-child pairs were asked to work together on two tasks: to prepare speeches about themselves and to replicate increasingly complex designs using an Etch-a-Sketch device. The participants were given five minutes for each task and worked in rooms under video surveillance.
Using a scale of 1 to 5, the researchers rated parental warmth and affection toward the child, criticism of the child, expression of doubts about a child's performance and ability to complete the task, granting of autonomy and parental over-control. Parents diagnosed with social anxiety showed less warmth and affection toward their children, criticized them more and more often expressed doubts about a child's ability to perform the task. There were no significant differences between parents on controlling and autonomy-granting behavior.
Prevention of childhood anxiety is critical because anxiety disorders affect one in five U.S. children but often go unrecognized, researchers say. Delays in diagnosis and treatment can lead to depression, substance abuse and poor academic performance throughout childhood and well into adulthood.
Journal reference: Child Psychiatry and Human Development
Provided by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
- When adult patients have anxiety disorder, their children need help too Jun 01, 2009 | not rated yet | 0
- New study shows 'helicopter parenting' makes for anxious children Aug 15, 2012 | not rated yet | 0
- Childhood anxiety can be prevented with early intervention Sep 20, 2010 | not rated yet | 0
- New study finds mums not to blame for anxious kids Mar 19, 2009 | not rated yet | 0
- Mothers and OCD children trapped in rituals have impaired relationships Apr 10, 2012 | not rated yet | 0
- Motion perception revisited: High Phi effect challenges established motion perception assumptions Apr 23, 2013 | 3 / 5 (2) | 2
- Anything you can do I can do better: Neuromolecular foundations of the superiority illusion (Update) Apr 02, 2013 | 4.5 / 5 (11) | 5
- The visual system as economist: Neural resource allocation in visual adaptation Mar 30, 2013 | 5 / 5 (2) | 9
- Separate lives: Neuronal and organismal lifespans decoupled Mar 27, 2013 | 4.9 / 5 (8) | 0
- Sizing things up: The evolutionary neurobiology of scale invariance Feb 28, 2013 | 4.8 / 5 (10) | 14
Why is zone 1 in liver more prone to ischemic injury?
May 23, 2013 Hi, Is it because around central vein, there is only deoxygenated blood from the vein where as in the periphery there is hepatic artery. Also why...
How can there be villous adenoma in colon, if there are no villi there
May 22, 2013 As title suggest. Thanks :smile:
How can there be a term called "intestinal metaplasia" of stomach
May 21, 2013 Hello everyone, Ok Stomach's normal epithelium is simple columnar, now in intestinal type of adenocarcinoma of stomach it undergoes "intestinal...
Pressure-volume curve: Elastic Recoil Pressure don't make sense
May 18, 2013 From pressure-volume curve of the lung and chest wall (attached photo), I don't understand why would the elastic recoil pressure of the lung is...
If you became brain-dead, would you want them to pull the plug?
May 17, 2013 I'd want the rest of me to stay alive. Sure it's a lousy way to live but it beats being all-the-way dead. Maybe if I make it 20 years they'll...
MRI bill question
May 15, 2013 Dear PFers, The hospital gave us a $12k bill for one MRI (head with contrast). The people I talked to at the hospital tell me that they do not...
- More from Physics Forums - Medical Sciences
More news stories
(HealthDay)—We've all seen them: the surfers who race to the beach when a hurricane hits, the guy who decides to ride out the storm in his overmatched boat, the tornado chasers who fearlessly steer their ...
Psychology & Psychiatry 10 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
Women at a particular stage in their monthly menstrual cycle may be more vulnerable to some of the psychological side-effects associated with stressful experiences, according to a study from UCL.
Psychology & Psychiatry 11 hours ago | 5 / 5 (2) | 0 |
Ernie Pyle – an iconic war correspondent in World War II – reportedly said "There are no atheists in foxholes." A new joint study between two brothers at Cornell and Virginia Wesleyan found that only ...
Psychology & Psychiatry 13 hours ago | 2.5 / 5 (4) | 1
(Medical Xpress)—Research by Stanford scholar Emma Seppala at the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education found that post-traumatic stress disorder decreased in veterans who participated ...
Psychology & Psychiatry 14 hours ago | 5 / 5 (1) | 0
(Medical Xpress)—Patients with diabetes who are depressed are much more likely to develop episodes of dangerously low blood sugars, or hypoglycemia, than are those who are not depressed, a new study has ...
Psychology & Psychiatry 15 hours ago | not rated yet | 0 |
(Medical Xpress)—A new study by researchers in the US has shown that an ancient virus can be modified to help in the fight against the simian immunodeficiency virus SIV, which is the equivalent in monkeys ...
14 hours ago | 5 / 5 (3) | 0 |
Two mutations central to the development of infantile myofibromatosis (IM)—a disorder characterized by multiple tumors involving the skin, bone, and soft tissue—may provide new therapeutic targets, according to researchers ...
8 hours ago | 3 / 5 (2) | 0 |
Biological processes are generally based on events at the molecular and cellular level. To understand what happens in the course of infections, diseases or normal bodily functions, scientists would need to ...
11 hours ago | 5 / 5 (3) | 0 |
Talking on a hands-free device while behind the wheel can lead to a sharp increase in errors that could imperil other drivers on the road, according to new research from the University of Alberta.
8 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
How can healthy people who hear voices help schizophrenics? Finding the answer for this is at the centre of research conducted at the University of Bergen.
14 hours ago | 4 / 5 (2) | 2