Encouraging risk-taking in children may reduce the prevalence of childhood anxiety

December 13, 2017, Macquarie University
Credit: Pixabay user gaoyun

A new international study suggests that parents who employ challenging parent behavioural (CPB) methods – active physical and verbal behaviours that encourage children to push their limits – are likely protecting their children from developing childhood anxiety disorders.

Researchers from Macquarie University's Centre for Emotional Health, along with partners from the University of Amsterdam and the University of Reading, surveyed 312 families with preschool-aged children across the Netherlands and Australia. Results showed that the parents who scored higher in their CPB methods, thereby encouraging their kids to push their limits to a greater extent, had children who were less at risk of exhibiting anxiety disorder symptoms, demonstrating that CPB was related to significantly less anxiety in children.

CPB encourages safe risk-taking in children such as giving them a fright, engaging in rough-and-tumble play or letting them lose a game, as well as encouraging them to practice social assertion and confidently enter into unfamiliar situations. This study aimed to build upon existing research that establishes a relationship between parenting behaviours – particularly overinvolvement and overcontrol – and the development and maintenance of childhood .

"Around seven per cent of Australian kids between the ages of four and seventeen have an anxiety disorder," explains Professor Jennie Hudson, Director of Centre for Emotional Health at Macquarie University and co-author of the study. "The fact is that we really need to learn more about how we can help families to reduce this percentage. While previous research has shown that encouraging risk taking behaviours helps cognitive, social and emotional development, our study shows that this method of parenting may also help reduce the risk of children developing an anxiety disorder."

To determine the effects of CPB on preschool-aged children, parents' CPB was assessed via a questionnaire assessing how much the parents encourage the exhibition of risky behaviour in their children, as well as the extent to which they encourage their children to venture beyond their comfort zones.

"While Dutch and Australian mothers showed no differences in CPB towards their sons or daughters, both Dutch and Australian fathers of sons demonstrated more competition towards their sons than fathers of daughters. Dutch fathers in particular reported more rough-and-tumble play than the other groups of parents," says Rebecca Lazarus from Macquarie University, another co-author of the study.

The results are promising in raising the clinical relevance of CPB methods, which could potentially be used to aid parents in helping their 's wellbeing.

"While this isn't a cure for anxiety, and we cannot at this stage determine causality, the results are promising in terms of parent education. By gently encouraging their kids in a reasonable way to push their limits, could be helping to reduce their child's risk of developing an disorder, which is a great insight," concluded Professor Hudson.

Explore further: New study shows 'helicopter parenting' makes for anxious children

More information: Mirjana Majdandžić et al. The Structure of Challenging Parenting Behavior and Associations With Anxiety in Dutch and Australian Children, Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology (2017). DOI: 10.1080/15374416.2017.1381915

Related Stories

New study shows 'helicopter parenting' makes for anxious children

August 15, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- In a recently published study, researchers have shown that mothers who are overinvolved or overprotective during the early stages of a child’s development – often referred to as helicopter parents ...

Parents' demanding jobs put children's mental health at risk

December 6, 2017
Jobs that are overly demanding at the expense of family time put the mental health of employees' children at risk, a new study led by ANU has found.

Increased parental anxiety with increased diabetes risk

July 13, 2017
(HealthDay)—Parents of children at increased genetic risk for type 1 diabetes and with positive islet autoantibody (IA) testing have increased anxiety, according to a study published online June 29 in Diabetes Care.

Strategic program helps families counter depression and anxiety

July 14, 2014
A new program aimed at reducing the impact of parents' anxiety or depression on the family is being trialled in Australia.

Visual analogue scale valid for assessing pediatric anxiety

July 21, 2017
(HealthDay)—A visual analogue scale (VAS) score is valid for assessing anxiety among children during induction of anesthesia, according to a study published online July 14 in Pediatric Anesthesia.

Recommended for you

Study with infants suggests language not necessary for reasoning ability

March 16, 2018
A team of researchers from Spain, Hungary and Poland has found via a study with infants that language may not be a necessity for the ability to reason. In their paper published in the journal Science, the group describes ...

Hep C compounds alcoholism's effect on brain volume

March 16, 2018
(HealthDay)—Alcohol dependence has deleterious effects on frontal cortical volumes that are compounded by hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection and drug dependence, according to a study published online March 14 in JAMA Psychiatry.

Older adults' difficulties with focusing can be used to help put a face to a name

March 16, 2018
Everyone has experienced the awkward situation of meeting someone and then forgetting their name shortly after. Among older adults, this happens more often than not.

Study casts doubt on ketamine nasal sprays for depression

March 16, 2018
Researchers from the Black Dog Institute and UNSW Sydney have questioned the efficacy and safety of intranasal ketamine for depression, with their pilot trial stopped early due to poor side effects in patients.

A little anger in negotiation pays

March 16, 2018
During negotiations, high-intensity anger elicits smaller concessions than moderate-intensity anger, according to a new study by management and business experts at Rice University and Northwestern University.

Research reveals brain mechanism involved in language learning

March 15, 2018
Learning a new language may be more of a science than an art, a University of Sussex study finds.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.