Title

Identifying Potential Risk Factors in Children of Anxious Caregivers

Date of Submission

2016

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)

Department

Psychology

Department Chair

Robert A DiTomasso, PhD, ABPP, Chair, Department of Psychology

First Advisor

Stephanie H Felgoise, PhD, ABPP, Chairperson

Second Advisor

Susan Panichelli Mindel, PhD

Third Advisor

Elliott W Simon, PhD

Abstract

Although learning experiences within a child’s environment can influence and define the development of anxiety symptomatology, very little research has investigated the presentation of early anxious symptomatology in the offspring of anxious caregivers, even though their children are considered to be “at risk” for developing an anxiety disorder. This study sought to add to the understanding of the development of childhood anxiety disorders by examining caregivers’ anxiety as related to their children’s anxiety and their parenting strategies when their children are faced with fearful situations. Results of the present study indicated that caregiver anxiety predicted the degree of anxiety symptomatology caregivers reported in their children, as well as the parenting strategies used when helping their children in various fearful situations. As caregivers’ anxiety increased, so did the reported degree of anxiety in their children. Furthermore, caregivers with higher degrees of anxiety were more apt to report allowing their children to avoid fearful situations. Since overall anxiety and avoidance of anxiety-provoking situations were found to be more prevalent in children with an anxious caregiver, implications for further research include the potential benefits of prevention programs provided to high-risk children in conjunction with their anxious caregivers.

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