Do Maternal Parenting Behaviors Indirectly Link Toddler Dysregulated Fear and Child Anxiety Symptoms?

Abstract

Dysregulated fear (DF), display of high-fear in low-threat contexts, has been shown to predict child anxiety development. Maternal protective, comforting, and intrusive behaviors have also been linked to child anxiety development and may be candidate mechanisms linking DF to anxiety. First, the relation between DF (age 2) and child separation anxiety (age 4) as indirectly linked by maternal protective, comforting, and intrusive behaviors was investigated. Second, the relation between DF and social anxiety (age 4) through parenting behaviors was investigated. Results suggested DF significantly predicted child separation anxiety through maternal intrusive behaviors, above and beyond protective and comforting behaviors. Neither protective nor comforting parenting behavior served as indirect effects between DF and separation anxiety. No parenting behaviors were found to indirectly link the relation between DF and social anxiety. Results suggest that multiple parenting behaviors are involved as environmental mechanisms by which DF predicts separation anxiety.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Results produced by raw data values remained consistent with results from our multiply imputed dataset. Maternal comforting behavior did not mediate the relation between toddler age 2 dysregulated fear and child age 4 separation anxiety above and beyond maternal protective behavior and maternal intrusive behavior (ab = 0.04, SE = 0.13, 95% CI [− 0.23, 0.26]). Maternal protective behavior did not mediate the relation between toddler age 2 dysregulated fear and child separation anxiety above and beyond maternal comforting behavior and maternal intrusive behavior (ab = − 0.01, SE = 0.06, 95% CI [− 0.22, 0.07]). Maternal intrusive behavior mediated the relation between toddler age 2 dysregulated fear and child age 4 separation anxiety above and beyond maternal comforting behavior and maternal protective behavior (ab = 0.12, SE = 0.07, 95% CI [0.02, 0.29]). Maternal comforting behavior did not mediate the relation between toddler age 2 dysregulated fear and child age 4 social anxiety above and beyond maternal protective behavior and maternal intrusive behavior (ab = -0.09, SE = 0.13, 95% CI [− 0.37, 0.16]). Maternal protective behavior did not mediate the relation between toddler age 2 dysregulated fear and child social anxiety above and beyond maternal comforting behavior and maternal intrusive behavior (ab = -0.009, SE = 0.06, 95% CI [− 0.15, 0.06]). Maternal intrusive behavior did not mediate the relation between toddler age 2 dysregulated fear and child age 4 social anxiety above and beyond maternal comforting behavior and maternal protective behavior (ab = 0.03, SE = 0.06, 95% CI [-0.05, 0.25]).

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Acknowledgements

The project from which these data were derived was supported, in part, by a grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (R15 HD076158) and funds from the Miami University College of Arts and Science, both to Elizabeth J. Kiel. We express our appreciation to the staff of the Behavior, Emotions, and Relationships Lab at Miami University for assistance with data collection, and to the families who participated in this project.

Funding

The project from which these data were derived was supported, in part, by a grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (R15 HD076158) and funds from the Miami University College of Arts and Science, both to Elizabeth J. Kiel. We express our appreciation to the staff of the Behavior, Emotions, and Relationships Lab at Miami University for assistance with data collection, and to the families who participated in this project.

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Correspondence to Randi A. Phelps.

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Maag, B., Phelps, R.A. & Kiel, E.J. Do Maternal Parenting Behaviors Indirectly Link Toddler Dysregulated Fear and Child Anxiety Symptoms?. Child Psychiatry Hum Dev 52, 225–235 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10578-020-01004-6

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Keywords

  • Child anxiety
  • Parenting behaviors
  • Protective behaviors
  • Comforting behaviors
  • Intrusive behaviors