Our study investigated the association between parental behaviour and anxiety in children and adolescents in a longitudinal 3-year follow-up design. Our study supplements widely used self-reports on parental behaviour with observations of the parent-child interactions.
A community sample of 101 children and their mothers were included in the study. We hypothesized that anxiety symptoms in the child and mother at intake would influence levels of anxiety in the child at three-year follow-up. We also hypothesized that negative maternal behaviour both self-reported and observed would provide a unique variance in predicting increased levels of anxiety symptoms in the child after three years above and beyond child and maternal levels of anxiety symptoms at intake.
We found that children’s anxiety symptom levels at intake, as well as female gender were significant and the most important contributors to the development of higher levels of anxiety symptoms at follow-up. Furthermore, observed maternal tension at intake significantly predicted child’s anxiety levels at follow-up.
Although maternal tension also significantly predicted higher levels of anxiety symptoms, the maternal variables were of less importance than child anxiety level at intake and female gender in predicting anxiety levels at follow-up.