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BACKGROUND: There has been increasing research interest in parenting by anxious adults; however, little is known about anxiety-subtype effects, or effects of the context in which parenting is assessed. METHODS: Two groups of anxious mothers, social phobia (N = 50), generalised anxiety disorder (N = 38), and nonanxious controls (N = 62) were assessed with their 4.9-year-old children in three tasks: two presented threat specifically relevant to each maternal disorder, namely, a social threat task where the child had to give a speech, and a nonsocial threat task where the child had to explore potentially scary objects; the third was a nonthreat task (playing with play dough). Seven parenting dimensions were scored. Effects on parenting of maternal anxiety subgroup and task, and their interactions, were examined, as were effects of earlier child behavioural inhibition and currently manifest anxiety. RESULTS: There were no parenting differences between maternal groups in the nonthreat play-dough task; parenting difficulties in the two anxious groups were principally evident in the disorder-specific challenge. Parenting differences between nonanxious and anxious mothers occurred independently of child characteristics. There was little evidence for particular forms of parenting difficulty being unique to maternal disorder. CONCLUSIONS: Anxious mothers' parenting difficulties emerge when occurring under challenge, especially when this is disorder-specific. These effects should be considered in research and clinical practice.

Original publication




Journal article


J Child Psychol Psychiatry

Publication Date





188 - 196


Adult, Anxiety Disorders, Child Behavior, Child, Preschool, Female, Humans, Inhibition (Psychology), Mother-Child Relations, Mothers, Neuropsychological Tests, Parenting, Phobic Disorders, Play and Playthings