Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

, Volume 43, Issue 3, pp 517–529 | Cite as

Parental Perfectionism and Overcontrol: Examining Mechanisms in the Development of Child Anxiety

  • Nicholas W. AffruntiEmail author
  • Janet Woodruff-Borden


It has been theorized that perfectionistic parents will engage in behaviors characterized by overcontrol, which then increase child anxiety. Previous research has yet to test this theory within a single study. The current study investigated the proposed theory in a single model, examining the mediational roles of parent perfectionism and overcontrol in the association between parent and child anxiety. Participants were 77 parent–child dyads, with 46 parents and 40 children diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. Children were between 3 and 12 years old (57.1 % female, 76.6 % Caucasian, 22.1 % African American). Path analysis indicated that the overall model fit the data well. Analyses showed that parental overcontrol mediated the relation between parental perfectionism and child anxiety and parental perfectionism mediated the relation between parental anxiety and parental overcontrol. Further, parental perfectionism and overcontrol sequentially mediated the parent to child anxiety relation. However, when parental perfectionism was accounted for in the model, parental overcontrol did not mediate the relation between parent and child anxiety. The findings suggest that parent perfectionism and overcontrol, together, may represent a specific pathway of risk for the development of anxiety disorders in children. The implications of these findings are reviewed in the context of previous theory on parental perfectionism, overcontrol, and the development of child anxiety. The clinical importance of the findings and future directions are also discussed.


Internalizing Anxiety Perfectionism Control Parenting Development 


Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychological and Brain SciencesUniversity of LouisvilleLouisvilleUSA

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