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Following cognitive behavioural therapy for child anxiety a significant minority of children fail to lose their diagnosis status. One potential barrier is high parental anxiety. We designed a pilot RCT to test claims that parental intolerance of the child's negative emotions may impact treatment outcomes. Parents of 60 children with an anxiety disorder, who were themselves highly anxious, received either brief parent-delivered treatment for child anxiety or the same treatment with strategies specifically targeting parental tolerance of their child's negative emotions. Consistent with predictions, parental tolerance of the child's negative emotions significantly improved from pre- to post-treatment. However, there was no evidence to inform the direction of this association as improvements were substantial in both groups. Moreover, while there were significant improvements in child anxiety in both conditions, there was little evidence that this was associated with the improvement in parental tolerance. Nevertheless, findings provide important clinical insight, including that parent-led treatments are appropriate even when the parent is highly anxious and that it may not be necessary to adjust interventions for many families.

Original publication




Journal article


J Anxiety Disord

Publication Date





52 - 59


Child anxiety, Cognitive behaviour therapy, Parent anxiety, Adult, Anxiety, Anxiety Disorders, Child, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Emotions, Female, Humans, Male, Parenting, Parents, Pilot Projects, Treatment Outcome