Category: Child / Adolescent - Anxiety
Studies of the factors hypothesized to underlie the link between parental and child anxiety have yielded numerous variables with potential explanatory power (e.g., McLeod, Wood, & Weisz, 2007). Among the parent-specific variables that have been examined as potential contributors to the development and maintenance of child anxiety are parental distress (Wolk et al., 2016) and parental anxiety sensitivity (AS) (Francis & Noel, 2010; Francis et al., 2016).
Previous investigations of parental distress, or feelings of discomfort, guilt, and helplessness associated with the child’s experience of anxiety, have found this variable to be positively associated with the parent’s own anxiety, but not with the child’s. Similarly, although parental AS is correlated with parental anxiety, significant relationships have not been revealed between this variable and child anxiety (Francis et al., 2016). The present study sought to examine these parental variables in a non-clinical sample (in contrast to the clinical population studied in Wolk et al., 2016) with a revised measure of parental AS (in contrast to the original ASI used in Francis et al., 2016). Specifically, we sought to determine whether parental distress and anxiety sensitivity account for non-overlapping proportions of variance in parental and child anxiety, as well as to evaluate the relationship between these two variables (parental distress and anxiety sensitivity) in predicting child anxiety.
Participants in the preliminary analysis included 22 children aged 8 to 13 (M=10.05, SD=1.65) and their biological parent. Children were recruited from private schools in a Midwestern city. As part of a larger study, parents completed online measures of anxiety symptoms (DASS-22) for themselves and their child (RCADS-P), as well as their own anxiety sensitivity (ASI-3) and distress (PABUA Distress).
In contrast to previous findings with the ASI, zero-order correlations revealed that parent AS, as assessed with the ASI-3, was significantly related to both parent (r = .71, p < .001) and parent-reported child anxiety (r = .45, p = .034). In contrast to findings observed in the clinical sample, parent distress was only associated with child anxiety (r = .55, p = .008). There was not a significant indirect effect of parent anxiety and parent-reported child anxiety through parent AS (b = 1.43, BCa CI [-0.12, 3.41]). There was, however, a significant indirect effect of parent and child anxiety through distress (b = 0.65, BCa CI [0.04, 1.99]). This represents a large effect (Κ2 = .26, 95% BCa CI [0.02, .53]). Hierarchical regression analyses were conducted for the outcome of parent-reported child anxiety. Results indicated that AS, entered first, significantly predicted child anxiety (F(1, 20) = 5.18, p = .034), with an R2 of .21. Distress, entered second, also accounted for unique variance in child anxiety (ΔR2 = .17; ΔF(1, 19) = 5.05, p = .037). These findings provide preliminary evidence that in a non-clinical sample, parent AS (as assessed by the ASI-3) and parent distress each demonstrate unique explanatory power with respect to child anxiety and that self-reports of parental distress are not accounted for by parents’ own levels of anxiety sensitivity.