Category: Adult Anxiety - GAD

PS9- #A14 - Parental Reactions to Children's Negative Emotions: The Moderating Role of GAD

Saturday, Nov 18
9:45 AM – 10:45 AM
Location: Indigo Ballroom CDGH, Level 2, Indigo Level

Keywords: GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder) | Adult Anxiety | Parenting

Parents teach children about emotions through emotion socialization (ES; Castro, Halberstadt, Lozada, & Craig, 2015). As part of ES, children learn about emotions through reactions to their emotional displays (Eisenberg, Cumberland, & Spinrad, 1998). Though theoretical models (Chorpita, & Barlow, 1998; Eisenberg et al., 1998) and prior research point to the importance of parents in ES, little is known regarding such factors as parental worry. Evidence suggests, however, that parenting differences are most clear in disorder-salient situations (Murray et al., 2012). Theoretical models of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) argue that it is characterized by emotion dysregulation (Mennin, Heimberg, Turk, & Fresco, 2005). Thus, it can be hypothesized that ES would be especially salient for parents with GAD. The current study aimed to investigate whether parental GAD conditionally affects parent’s reactions to children’s negative affect, as would be hypothesized by the Emotion Dysregulation Model (EDM), and whether this is unique to GAD. It was expected that parents with GAD respond to children’s negative affect with greater increases of emotional discouragement (ED) and greater decreases of productive engagement (PE) and overcontrol (OC), all in order to avoid a distressing emotional situation. It was also expected that anxiety level would not significantly moderate this relationship. The interactions of 89 parent-child dyads during an age-appropriate stressful task were coded for child negative affect, parental ED, PE and OC. Parents of children 3-5 assisted with difficult puzzles; parents of children 6-12 assisted with unsolvable anagrams. Parents also completed the Anxiety Disorders Interview Schedule-IV (ADIS-IV) to determine GAD status and the Beck Anxiety Inventory (BAI).


Moderation analyses were used to test if GAD and BAI scores respectively moderated the relationship between child negative affect and parent behavior. Results indicate that GAD conditionally affects parent’s reactions of OC (β=-.05, t=-1.98, p=.05, 95% boot-strap CI -.11- .00), ED (β=.023, t=2.04, p=.045, 95% boot-strap CI .0005- .046), but not PE (β=-.03, t=-.48, p=.63, 95% boot-strap CI -.10- .16). Further, BAI scores did not moderate reactions of OC (β=.001, t=.69, p=.49, 95% boot-strap CI -.002- .004), ED (β=-.0003, t=-.05, p=.96, 95% boot-strap CI -.01- .01), or PE (β=.005, t=1.43, p=.16, 95% boot-strap CI -.002- .012). Overall, results are consistent with hypotheses derived from the EDM such that parents with GAD were more discouraging and did not adjust levels of control. Results will be discussed in terms of treatment implications for worried parents and their children. 

Brenda Arellano

Doctoral Student
University of Louisville
Louisville, Kentucky

Janet Woodruff-Borden

University of Louisville