, Volume 43, Issue 1, pp 102-112

Maternal Overcontrol and Child Anxiety: The Mediating Role of Perceived Competence

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Abstract

Previous research has shown that maternal overcontrol is related to higher levels of child anxiety. It has been theorized, though not empirically tested, that maternal overcontrol decreases child perceived competence and mastery, which increases child anxiety. The present study investigated this theory using a sample of 89 mother–child dyads (children aged 6–13, 84.3% Caucasian, 6.7% African American, and 51.7% male). After statistically controlling for maternal anxiety level, child perceived competence was shown to partially mediate the relationship between maternal overcontrol and child anxiety. Though current findings are based on cross sectional data, they suggest multiple pathways through which maternal overcontrol impacts child anxiety. One pathway, described in theoretical models, posits that greater levels of parental control reduce children’s opportunities to acquire appropriate developmental skills, lowering their perceived competence, and thus increasing their anxiety. Implications of these findings and directions for future research are discussed.