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The impact of maternal control on children’s anxious cognitions, behaviours and affect: an experimental study

By Kerstin J. Thirlwall and Catharine S. Creswell


Controlling parenting is associated with child anxiety however the direction of effects remains unclear. The present study implemented a Latin-square experimental design to assess the impact of parental control on children’s anxious affect, cognitions and behaviour. A non-clinical sample of 24 mothers of children aged 4-5 years were trained to engage in (a) controlling and (b) autonomy-granting behaviours in interaction with their child during the preparation of a speech. When mothers engaged in controlling parenting behaviours, children made more negative predictions about their performance prior to delivering their speech and reported feeling less happy about the task, and this was moderated by child trait anxiety. In addition, children with higher trait anxiety displayed a significant increase in observed child anxiety in the controlling condition. The pattern of results was maintained when differences in mothers’ levels of negativity and habitual levels of control were accounted for. These findings are consistent with theories that suggest that controlling parenting is a risk factor in the development of childhood anxiety

Publisher: Elsevier
Year: 2010
OAI identifier:

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