Parental psychopathology and treatment outcome for anxious youth: Roles of family functioning and caregiver strain

Jessica L. Schleider*, Golda S. Ginsburg, Courtney P. Keeton, John R. Weisz, Boris Birmaher, Phillip C. Kendall, John Piacentini, Joel Sherrill, John T. Walkup

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

24 Scopus citations

Abstract

Objective: Research has examined the effects of parental psychopathology, family functioning, and caregiver strain on treatment response in anxious youths. Although these variables have shown individual links to youth treatment response, theoretical models for their combined effects remain unexplored. This study tested the hypothesis that improvements in family functioning and reductions in caregiver strain explained the effects of parental psychopathology on youth treatment outcome in an anxiety treatment trial. Method: A multiple mediation technique was used to test the proposed model across independent evaluator (IE), parent, and youth informants in 488 youths, aged 7 17 years (50% female; mean age 10.7) meeting Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders criteria for social phobia, separation anxiety, and/or generalized anxiety disorder. Youths were randomized to receive 12 weeks of cognitive-behavioral treatment (Coping Cat), medication (sertraline), their combination, or a pill placebo. At pre- and posttreatment, parents completed self-report measures of global psychopathology symptoms, family functioning, and caregiver strain; parents, youths, and IEs rated youths' anxiety symptom severity. Results: Changes in family functioning and caregiver strain jointly explained relations between parental psychopathology and reductions in youth anxiety. Specifically, across IE and parent informants, families with higher pretreatment parental psychopathology showed more improvement in family functioning and caregiver strain, which in turn predicted greater youth anxiety reductions. Further, higher pretreatment parental psychopathology predicted greater caregiver strain reductions and, in turn, greater youth anxiety reductions, based on youths' reports of their own anxiety. Conclusions: Findings suggest that improvements in family functioning and reductions in caregiver strain can influence treatment outcomes for anxious youths, especially among youths with more distressed parents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)213-224
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology
Volume83
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 2015

Keywords

  • Family functioning
  • Mediation
  • Parental psychopathology
  • Youth anxiety treatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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