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The Role of Parental Anxiety Sensitivity and Beliefs About Child Anxiety in the Relationship Between Parent and Child Anxiety

Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment
Shannon Manley, Sarah Francis
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Many potential facilitators of the intergenerational transmission of anxiety have been examined in youth. Although the construct of anxiety sensitivity (AS), or the fear of anxiety symptoms and the belief that negative outcomes will result from them (Reiss in Clinical Psychology Review, 11(2), 141−153, 1991) has been associated with anxiety in both parents and children, parental AS has not demonstrated a consistently significant relationship to child anxiety (e.g., Drake & Kearney in Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, 30(2), 79−86, 2008). A variable related to parents’ own AS is the construct of parental beliefs about child anxiety (PBA), or cognitions that parents have regarding their child’s experience of anxiety and anxiety-provoking situations. PBA has been found to be significantly correlated with child anxiety and to mediate its relationship with parent anxiety (Francis & Chorpita in Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, 32(1), 138−149, 2010; Cognitive Therapy and Research, 35(1), 21−29, 2011). This study evaluated the psychometric properties of the Parental Beliefs about Anxiety Questionnaire in a novel sample, including subsamples from both clinical and school populations, while examining the contribution of PBA to child anxiety in the context of parental AS. Amongst a sample of 133 children (76 clinic-referred and 57 recruited from public schools), results indicated significant relationships between PBA, parental AS, child anxiety, and parent anxiety. A significant indirect effect on the parent–child anxiety relationship was observed for PBA, which remained significant after controlling for parental AS. These findings lend support to the indirect effect of PBA in the relationship between parent and child anxiety, and provide evidence that effect of PBA in this respect is not accounted for by parental AS.

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