Maternal emotion regulation during child distress, child anxiety accommodation, and links between maternal and child anxiety

Caroline E. Kerns*, Donna B. Pincus, Katie A. McLaughlin, Jonathan S. Comer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations

Abstract

Environmental contributions are thought to play a primary role in the familial aggregation of anxiety, but parenting influences remain poorly understood. We examined dynamic relations between maternal anxiety, maternal emotion regulation (ER) during child distress, maternal accommodation of child distress, and child anxiety. Mothers (N = 45) of youth ages 3–8 years (M = 4.8) participated in an experimental task during which they listened to a standardized audio recording of a child in anxious distress pleading for parental intervention. Measures of maternal and child anxiety, mothers’ affective states, mothers’ ER strategies during the child distress, and maternal accommodation of child anxiety were collected. Mothers’ resting respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) reactivity during the recording was also acquired. Higher maternal negative affect and greater maternal ER switching (i.e., using multiple ER strategies in a short time without positive regulatory results) during child distress were associated with child anxiety. Sequential mediation modeling showed that maternal anxiety predicted ineffective maternal ER during child distress exposure, which in turn predicted greater maternal accommodation, which in turn predicted higher child anxiety. Findings support the mediating roles of maternal ER and accommodation in linking maternal and child anxiety, and suggest that ineffective maternal ER and subsequent attempts to accommodate child distress may act as mechanisms underlying the familial aggregation of anxiety.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)52-59
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Anxiety Disorders
Volume50
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2017

Keywords

  • Child anxiety
  • Emotion regulation
  • Maternal anxiety
  • Parenting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Maternal emotion regulation during child distress, child anxiety accommodation, and links between maternal and child anxiety'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this