Category: Child / Adolescent - Anxiety
Family environment variables, such as an emphasis on child independence, may significantly affect the development and maintenance of childhood anxiety. The Family Environment Scale is a 90-item inventory that includes ten subscales (i.e., cohesion, expressiveness, conflict, independence, achievement, intellectual/cultural, active/recreational, moral/religious emphasis, organization, and control) and three forms: Real (measures parental perceptions of current family environment), Ideal (assesses aspects of an idealized family environment), and Expected (measures the family’s expectations for future family environment). Use of this measure may facilitate conclusions about a family’s current milieu and a parent’s priorities in child-rearing.
This study examined maternal perceptions of real, ideal, and expected child independence on child anxiety. 87 mothers and their children participated from a larger dataset collected at a university-affiliated community mental health clinic. Mothers were between 28 and 54 years of age (M=39.72; SD=6.72). The majority of the sample identified as Caucasian (85.1%), and fewer identified as African American (6.9%), Hispanic (2.3%), Asian (2.3%), or Other (1.1%). The children ranged in age from 5 to 16 years (M=10.48; SD=3.01) and were chiefly male (58.6%). The children’s anxiety was assessed with the total score from the Revised Children’s Manifest Anxiety Scale, Second Edition (RCMAS-2, a 49-item self-report questionnaire on symptoms of anxiety).
Child age was a significant predictor of child anxiety (b= -.25, t(85)= -2.38, p=.02), with younger children reporting more anxiety than older children. There were no main effects of child gender, child ethnicity, or maternal age on child anxiety. Neither maternal expectations for future independence (p=.73) nor current reported levels of independence (p=.97) were significant predictors of child anxiety. Interestingly, only maternal idealization of independence (b= -.27, t(85)= -2.54, p=.013) emerged as a significant predictor of child anxiety. Mothers who value child independence, regardless of current family environment or expectations for future growth, may facilitate less anxiety in their children through promotion of independent problem-solving and practice with potentially anxiety-provoking situations. This suggests a disconnect between parental perceptions, priorities, and expectations of family environment, which may have significant implications for child psychopathology. Future studies should further clarify the reciprocal relationship between family environment and child outcomes.
Clinical Psychology Graduate Student
Louisiana State University
Baton Rouge, Louisiana