Journal of Child and Family Studies

, Volume 26, Issue 5, pp 1398–1408 | Cite as

The Role of Metacognitions in the Association between Children’s Perceptions of Maternal Control and Anxiety

  • Nicole N. Lønfeldt
  • Carla E. Marin
  • Wendy K. Silverman
  • Marie Louise Reinholdt-Dunne
  • Barbara H. Esbjørn
Original Paper


We aimed to bring a developmental perspective to metacognitive theory. The metacognitive model (MCM) was originally developed for adults. However, an increasing number of studies demonstrate the MCM is relevant to child anxiety. Therefore, it is important to understand the origins of anxiety-specific metacognitions. Given the role experiences of controlling parenting play in maintaining and perhaps forming anxious cognitions or a cognitive vulnerability we focused on maternal behavioral and psychological control. Using a cross-sectional design, Danish school children (9–17 years old; N = 1062) rated their levels of anxiety and anxiety-specific metacognitions, and their mothers' controlling behavior. Child-perceived maternal psychological control was positively correlated with each anxiety specific metacognition (positive and negative worry beliefs, cognitive confidence, need to control, and cognitive self-consciousness). Child-perceived autonomy-granting was negatively correlated with all metacognitions except cognitive self-consciousness. Child perceived maternal psychological control was indirectly associated with anxiety via total metacognitions. Child-perceived autonomy-granting, but not psychological control, was directly related to anxiety. Given the differential findings for psychological control and autonomy-granting, we suggest that specific types of parenting behavior may be related to specific elements of (meta-) cognitive vulnerability. Our findings are theoretically important because they propose maternal psychological control is an environmental factor that may play a role in the development of a metacognitive vulnerability related to anxiety. A potential clinical implication of our findings is that metacognitive therapy for children should include a parental component.


Metacognitive model Parenting behavior Overprotection Children Anxiety 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nicole N. Lønfeldt
    • 1
  • Carla E. Marin
    • 2
  • Wendy K. Silverman
    • 2
  • Marie Louise Reinholdt-Dunne
    • 1
  • Barbara H. Esbjørn
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagenDenmark
  2. 2.Child Study Center, Yale School of MedicineNew HavenUSA

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