Parental Emotion-Focused Behaviors Moderate the Relationship Between Perceptual Sensitivity and Fear Reactivity in Anxious Children

  • Emma C. Woodward
  • Andres G. VianaEmail author
  • Elizabeth M. Raines
  • Erika S. Trent
  • Abigail E. Candelari
  • Eric A. Storch
  • Michael J. Zvolensky
Original Article


This investigation examined the synergistic role of parental emotion-focused socialization behaviors and children’s perceptual sensitivity on children’s fear reactivity. A sample of 105 children with anxiety disorders (8–12 years; M = 10.07 years, SD = 1.22; 57% female) and their clinically anxious mothers (M = 39.35 years, SD = 7.05) completed an assessment battery that included a diagnostic interview and questionnaires regarding anxiety symptoms, perceptual sensitivity, and emotion socialization behaviors; children also completed a 5-min, videotaped speech task, and rated their fear levels before and after the task. Analyses revealed a significant interaction between perceptual sensitivity and emotion-focused strategies predicting fear change scores from pre- to post-speech. Higher perceptual sensitivity was related to greater reductions in fear from pre- to post- speech (adjusting for pre-speech fear scores), yet only among anxious children whose mothers reported high use of emotion-focused strategies. Maternal emotion-focused socialization strategies may increase anxious children’s ability to modulate their affective responses during stressful situations.


Emotion socialization Anxiety Children Fear Temperament Parenting 



This study was funded by Grant R21MH101309 (PI: Viana) from the National Institute of Mental Health.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.

Research Involving Human Participants and/or Animals

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.

Informed Consent

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


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Emma C. Woodward
    • 1
  • Andres G. Viana
    • 1
    • 2
    • 5
    Email author
  • Elizabeth M. Raines
    • 1
  • Erika S. Trent
    • 1
  • Abigail E. Candelari
    • 1
  • Eric A. Storch
    • 3
  • Michael J. Zvolensky
    • 1
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of HoustonHoustonUSA
  2. 2.Texas Institute of Measurement, Evaluation, and StatisticsUniversity of HoustonHoustonUSA
  3. 3.Menninger Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral SciencesBaylor College of MedicineHoustonUSA
  4. 4.Department of Behavioral ScienceThe University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer CenterHoustonUSA
  5. 5.Child Temperament, Thoughts, and Emotions Laboratory, Department of PsychologyUniversity of Houston, Health and Biomedical Sciences BuildingHoustonUSA

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