Category: Child / Adolescent - Anxiety
It is well documented that anxiety disorders aggregate in families, and current literature suggests significant environmental, rather than genetic, influence on the transmission and development of anxiety (Eley et al., 2015). Therefore, it is critical to examine environmental factors that influence family functioning, and observe their contributions to known risk factors of anxiety. Socioeconomic status is one such factor linked to family functioning, where greater socioeconomic burden has been associated with greater levels of family dysfunction (Vandsburger et al., 2008). It may be especially important to investigate these relationships in families with preschool children; although preschoolers have usually not reached clinical anxiety levels, they are constantly interacting with multiple systems that may forge a pathway of risk towards anxiety disorders. The current study examined the relationships between family income and dimensions of family functioning. We also examined how income and family functioning predict overcontrolling behavior in parents, which is a known robust risk factor for developing anxiety (Wood et al., 2003). Participants were 57 children between 3 and 5 years old and their parents, recruited from the community. Parents filled out self-report measures for anxiety (State Trait Anxiety Inventory-Trait), family functioning (Family Assessment Device; FAD), and income, which was binned into four categories. Parental overcontrolling behaviors were observed during a parent-child interaction task. One-way analyses of variance indicated that of the seven FAD subscales, there was a significant difference between income level and the problem solving (F(3,53) = 3.740, p=.016), and communication (F(3, 53) = 4.464, p=.007) subscales. Bonferroni post hoc comparisons indicated significant differences between the lowest and highest income group, where lower income indicated less adaptive family functioning for both problem solving (p=.015) and communication (p=.037). Regression analyses indicated that after controlling for parent anxiety, income did not significantly predict overcontrolling parent behavior (p=.096), and problem solving was the only subscale on the FAD to predict overcontrolling parental behavior (R2= .199, F(2,36) = 4.475, p=.018), where less effective family problem solving was linked to a higher proportions of overcontrolling behavior. These findings contribute towards understanding the ways in which socioeconomic stress affects both the individual and the family. It also better characterizes the behaviors of families who indicate lower levels of family functioning, where parents who indicated less adaptive problem solving also displayed greater overcontrolling behaviors, even after controlling for parental anxiety.