Cognitive, affective and behavioural characteristics of mothers with anxiety disorders in the context of child anxiety disorder
Creswell, C., Apetroaia, A., Murray, L. and Cooper, P. (2012) Cognitive, affective and behavioural characteristics of mothers with anxiety disorders in the context of child anxiety disorder. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 122 (1). pp. 26-38. ISSN 1939-1846
To link to this article DOI: 10.1037/a0029516
Parental emotional distress, particularly high maternal anxiety, is one of the most consistent predictors of child anxiety treatment outcome. In order to identify the cognitive, affective and behavioural parenting characteristics of mothers of children with anxiety disorders who themselves have an anxiety disorder, we assessed the expectations and appraisals of 88 mothers of anxious children (44 not anxious (NONANX) and 44 with a current anxiety disorder (ANX)) before and after interacting with their 7-12 year old children. There were no observed differences in anxiety and avoidance among children of ANX and NONANX mothers, but, compared to NONANX mothers, ANX mothers held more negative expectations and differed on observations of intrusiveness, expressed anxiety, warmth and the quality of the relationship. Associations were moderated by the degree to which children expressed anxiety during the tasks. Maternal reported negative emotions during the task significantly mediated the association between maternal anxiety status and the observed quality of the relationship. These findings suggest that maternal anxiety disorder is associated with reduced tolerance of children’s negative emotions. This may interfere with the maintenance of a positive, supportive mother-child interaction under conditions of stress, and as such impede optimum treatment outcomes. The findings identify potential cognitive, affective and behavioural targets to improve treatment outcomes for children with anxiety disorders in the context of a current maternal anxiety disorder.