Child Psychiatry & Human Development

, Volume 49, Issue 3, pp 460–467 | Cite as

Maternal Acceptance Moderates Fear Ratings and Avoidance Behavior in Children

  • Yaara Shimshoni
  • Wendy K. Silverman
  • Simon P. Byrne
  • Eli R. Lebowitz
Original Article


Avoidance is a hallmark feature of anxiety disorders, and avoidance-related impairment is often key to meeting diagnostic criteria. In children and adolescents with anxiety disorders, levels of avoidance vary considerably. Using a novel motion-tracking measure of avoidance behavior, we examined whether maternal acceptance, characterized by warm and accepting responses to child feelings and behaviors, moderates the association between fear of spiders and behavioral avoidance of spider stimuli in 103 clinically anxious children. As hypothesized, maternal acceptance significantly moderated children’s avoidance behavior. Child’s fear of spiders was significantly associated with behavioral avoidance when mothers were low in acceptance, as rated by either mothers or children. When mothers were high in acceptance, as rated by either mothers or children, child self-rated fear of spiders was not significantly associated with child avoidance. These are the first results to empirically demonstrate the moderating role of maternal acceptance in anxious children’s avoidance behavior.


Maternal acceptance Fear Avoidance Children and adolescents Anxiety disorders 



The authors acknowledge the work of PreviewLabs ( on software development for YIKES. This research was supported by a NARSAD Young Investigator Grant from the Brain and Behavior Foundation (Grant Number 21470) and by Grants from NIMH (K23MH103555) and NCATS (KL2TR000140).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Yale University Child Study CenterNew HavenUSA

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