Child & Youth Care Forum

, Volume 46, Issue 4, pp 577–599 | Cite as

Do Mother’s Metacognitions, Beliefs, and Behaviors Predict Child Anxiety-Related Metacognitions?

  • Nicole N. Lønfeldt
  • Barbara H. Esbjørn
  • Nicoline Normann
  • Sonja Breinholst
  • Sarah E. Francis
Original Paper



Recent research suggests that adults and children with anxiety disorders have a particular set of metacognitive beliefs and strategies. Knowing whether parents’ metacognitions, beliefs and behaviors are associated with their children’s metacognitions is important for understanding how anxiety-related metacognitions and clinical anxiety develop.


We hypothesized that there are positive relationships between mother and corresponding child anxiety-related metacognitions even after controlling for maternal depression, anxiety and stress symptoms. We also hypothesized that maternal beliefs about child anxiety and maternal controlling behavior would be positively related to child metacognitions and would account for any associations between mother and child metacognitions.


The study employed a cross-sectional design in a community sample of 7–12 year old children and their mothers. Mothers and children completed questionnaires to assess anxiety-related metacognitions and an interaction task to assess mothers’ overinvolvement. Mothers also completed questionnaires regarding their beliefs about child anxiety and controlling rearing behavior. We examined correlations between variables before investigating which maternal variables made unique contributions to the variation in children’s metacognitions in a series of multiple regressions and mediation analyses.


Mothers’ positive worry beliefs and cognitive confidence contributed a modest amount of unique variance in the corresponding beliefs in children. Mothers’ and children’s metacognitions were positively associated.


The unique contributions of mothers’ anxiety-related metacognitions on children’s anxiety-related metacognitions found in our study indicate that a metacognitive-parental intervention for preventing and treating child anxiety is worth investigation. Our findings place anxious metacognitions in a developmental context.


Metacognitions Parental beliefs about child anxiety Controlling parenting Overinvolved parenting Anxiety Children 



We would like to thank the mothers and children who participated in this study, as well as the Center for Angst staff and students involved in data collection.


This study was funded by the Marie Curie Actions Foundation (Grant No. 300300) awarded to Prof. Barbara Hoff Esbjørn.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. This article does not contain studies with animals performed by any of the authors.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nicole N. Lønfeldt
    • 1
  • Barbara H. Esbjørn
    • 1
  • Nicoline Normann
    • 1
  • Sonja Breinholst
    • 1
  • Sarah E. Francis
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagenDenmark
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of ToledoToledoUSA

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