PARENTAL ANXIETY AS AN ENVIRONMENTAL CONTEXT FOR ANXIETY SYMPTOM DEVELOPMENT IN CHILDHOOD

Restricted (Penn State Only)
Author:
Cho, Sunghye
Graduate Program:
Psychology
Degree:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Dissertation
Date of Defense:
July 09, 2018
Committee Members:
  • Jenae Marie Neiderhiser, Dissertation Advisor
  • Jenae Marie Neiderhiser, Committee Chair
  • Kristin Ann Buss, Committee Member
  • Michelle Gayle Newman, Committee Member
  • Stephanie Trea Lanza, Outside Member
  • Pamela Marie Cole, Committee Chair
Keywords:
  • Anxiety
  • Parenting
  • Environmental Risk Transmission
  • Adoption Design
Abstract:
Extensive evidence documents that anxiety tends to aggregate in families, following both a symptom general and specific pattern. However, relatively little is understood about the environmental processes underlying the observed covariation of anxiety within parent-child dyads. In particular, studies examining the association between parental anxiety and parenting behaviors are largely characterized by inconsistent and null findings. These results are often contrasted by accumulating evidence which supports a comparatively robust relationship between children’s anxious symptomatology and “anxiety-enhancing” parenting behaviors. In an attempt to better understand the environmental processes associated with the familial aggregation of anxiety symptoms, the proposed study investigated the associations between specific parental anxiety symptoms and parenting behaviors in a sample of adoptive parent-child dyads (n=410). Results of a latent-class analysis (LCA) suggested that parental anxiety symptoms were best characterized by a 5-class solution. Adoptive parents’ (AP) membership in the comorbid panic disorder and worry symptoms (“PD+Worry”) was associated with significantly elevated rates of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) in adopted children (AC). Significant three-way interaction effects highlight a complex pattern of transactional relations among AP and AC characteristics. Finally, relative contribution of categorical and dimensional indices of parental anxiety to AC anxiety diagnosis was examined, with findings suggesting a greater likelihood of AC anxiety associated with AP membership in PD+Worry group and dimensional scores of worry and panic disorder symptoms. Implications of the findings are discussed in the context of previous research that portrayed parent and child anxiety as “competing determinants” of anxiety-enhancing parenting behaviors.