Category: Child / Adolescent - Anxiety
Parental accommodation (changes in behavior designed to prevent or alleviate child distress) is common among parents of anxious children, maintains anxiety overtime, and is counter to principles of exposure-based therapy (Ginsburg et al., 2004, Lebowitz et al., 2013). Moreover, treatments targeting accommodation show significant improvements for children who are resistant to individual treatment (Lebowitz, 2013). Despite theoretical and empirical evidence that the impact of parenting on youth anxiety may vary across mothers and fathers (Bogels & Phares, 2008), research has failed to investigate cross-parent differences in the occurrence of parental accommodation of youth anxious distress.
Utilizing data from 161 treatment-seeking youth (ages 3-17) presenting to an anxiety clinic, this study examined variations in the use of accommodation across mothers and fathers. Accommodation behaviors were measured using the Family Accommodation Checklist and Interference Scale. Clinical variables were measured using parents’ report on the Child Behavior Checklist and children’s report on the Multidimensional Anxiety Scale for Children.
Descriptive analyses show that 88.2% of mothers and 84.5% of fathers endorsed at least one accommodation behavior. Paired samples t-tests show a significant difference in the number of accommodations endorsed by mothers [M=3.16, SD=2.56] and fathers [M=2.75, SD= 2.29], t(160)=2.15, p=.03. In terms of child anxiety symptoms, number of accommodations are positively correlated with child-reported performance anxiety for mothers (r(120)=.26, pr(120)=.18, p=.05) and separation anxiety for mothers (r(120)=.20, p=.03). Parent-reported accommodations are also related to parent-reported child internalizing and externalizing behavior problems for mothers (rs(156)=.39 and .31, psrs(150)=.31 and .25, psandexternalizing problems endorse more accommodations than mothers of children with elevated internalizing problems alone, t(111)=-2.25, p=.03. Subsequent analyses will explore cross-parent differences in the endorsement of specific accommodation behaviors at the item-level.
Preliminary findings identify several differences in parental accommodation across mothers and fathers. This suggests that careful assessment of accommodation by both parents is necessary to understand the potential impact of accommodation on child anxiety symptoms. Findings will be discussed in terms of how they may inform mothers’ and/or fathers’ involvement in child anxiety treatment and under what circumstances targeting accommodation behaviors might be especially important (e.g., separation anxiety, comorbid behavior problems).
Lindsay Holly– Postdoctoral Associate, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts
Erin O'Connor– Graduate Student, Boston University, Brookline, Massachusetts
Danielle Fishbein– Boston University
David Langer– Research Assistant Professor, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts
Donna Pincus– Associate Professor, Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts