A large body of literature examines the relation between parental psychological control (PC) and children’s anxiety with some of this literature focusing on cognitive mechanisms that link these two constructs. To date, however, how PC and cognitive mechanisms may relate to anxiety at different ages in childhood is not well understood. This study tested a developmental model of the interrelations among PC, maladaptive schemas, and children’s anxiety. The model proposes that maladaptive schemas mediate the relation between PC and anxiety for younger children but moderate this relation for older (adolescent) children.
442 children (9–18 years old) completed measures of their anxiety, cognitive schemas reflecting impaired autonomy/performance and disconnection/rejection domains, and maternal and paternal PC.
Results indicated that disconnection/rejection and impaired autonomy/performance maladaptive schemas mediate the association between perceived maternal and paternal PC and childhood anxiety for younger and older children. In contrast, these maladaptive schemas did not moderate the relation between parental PC and childhood anxiety for either younger or older children.
The results do not support alternate models of anxiety development for younger and older youth that take into account PC and maladaptive schemas. Rather, PC is negatively and directly linked to children’s cognitions beyond a low sense of control independent of age and cognitive maturity, and in turn, these maladaptive schemas are associated to anxiety for the children.