The Presence of a Controlling Parent Is Related to an Increase in the Error-Related Negativity in 5–7 Year-Old Children

  • Alexandria MeyerEmail author
  • Corinne Carlton
  • Lyndsey Juliane Chong
  • Karl Wissemann


Anxiety disorders often begin early in life and there is substantial interest in identifying neural markers that characterize developmental trajectories that result in anxiety. The error-related negativity (ERN) is elicited when people make errors on lab-based reaction-time tasks, is increased in anxious children, and can predict the onset of anxiety across development. In light of this, there is an increasing interest in identifying environmental factors that may shape the ERN in children. Previous work suggests that controlling parenting styles may relate to the ERN in offspring. However, no study had yet examined the specific mechanism whereby parenting style may impact the ERN in children. We propose that it may be children’s repeated exposure to making mistakes in the context of their parents’ reactions (i.e., verbal or non-verbal reactions, displays of parental control, etc.) that may lead to an increased ERN. We test this novel hypothesis by measuring the ERN in 94 children between the ages of 5–7 years old, while their parent observes them and then while an experimenter observes them complete a Go-No/Go task. Results suggest that the presence of parents characterized by high control potentiates the ERN in their children. Moreover, the relationship between controlling parenting styles and child anxiety disorder status was mediated by the parent presence potentiation of the ERN. These findings are important and novel insofar as they highlight the impact of an environmental factor (i.e., parenting) in shaping a neural marker of risk for anxiety in children (i.e., the ERN).


Error-related negativity ERN Anxiety Children Parenting 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyFlorida State UniversityTallahasseeUSA

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