Anxiety from Parents to Their Children

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Intergenerational Transmission of Externalizing Anxiety in Parents and the Association with that in
their Children between the age 10 to 18

Misho Hristov
University of Nicosia
Spring Semester 2010

In fulfillment of the requirements for PSY-495
Xenia Hadjicharalambous

Anxiety is an affective state that affects everyone. However, not enough is known about the relationship between parental anxiety and the transmission to that of child’s. The current study attempted to examine the intergenerational transmission of anxiety from parent to child in the Cypriot population and thus add some support of existing data. We tested hour two hypothesis whether parental anxiety, stress and depression act as predictors to the child’s Social Anxiety Disorder and whether the parental anxiety, stress and Generalized Anxiety Disorder symptoms act as predictors of the child’s Generalized Anxiety Disorders. Analysis was performed on high-risk sample of 13 adolescents between 10 and 18 years of age drawn from a student population in various schools in Cyprus. For every child participant, one of the parents also participate, making it a total of 26 participants. Specifically, it was found that neither of the variables that we chose predict anxiety disorders in children. The multiple regression we carried out did not show any significant results and therefore the two hypothesis we proposed were rejected. We discussed that a major reason for such findings was the extremely low participant rate and other number of limitations. Moreover we proposed various considerations that need to be taken for future researchers on the topic.

Anxiety is an affective quality that influences every one of us in everyday life. It is unique from other emotional states in that some anxiety is necessary for daily functioning, while too much is detrimental to functioning and to health. For example, most children feel some anxiety about tests. An adaptive amount of anxiety motivates them to study for the test, while too much can make them physically ill or not able to think clearly. Anxiety includes cognitive, behavioral, and emotional components that can be manifested in ways that are apparent or concealed, functional or dysfunctional, and enabling or debilitating (Albano, Chorpita, & Barlow, 1996). What constitutes the difference between healthy anxiety and maladaptive anxiety is relatively subjective and differs depending on the child and the situation (Lyman & Hembre-Kigin, 1994). The evidence that mental illness is replicated across generations of the same family have been not only plentiful, but also consistent (Downey & Coyne,1990;Goodman and Gotlib,1999). This support is relays on two types of research designs: cross-sectional studies where there is a comparison of rates of mental health problems among the offspring of mentally and non-mentally ill parents, and the other being longitudinal studies that track both parents and children over a period of time. The second study design seems to be more methodologically advanced mainly because the effect of children’s length of exposure to parental mental illness can be measured. The sequencing of the human genome has stimulated great interest in the familial aggregation of psychiatric disorders, including childhood anxiety disorders. During the past 25 years, more than 20 studies have reported an association between various forms of parental psychopathology and childhood anxiety. Since children’s mental health has been measured in terms of psychiatric disorder and behavior problems, the primary determinant for the choice of measurement is the age of the child. Furthermore, the standard psychiatric diagnostic systems are realistic for adolescent and young adults (Goodman &Gotlib,1999). Although both mothers and fathers have the potential to transmit mental health problems to their...
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