The Intergenerational Transmission of Anxiety in a Chinese Population: The Mediating Effect of Parental Control

  • Fuzhen XuEmail author
  • Wei Cui
  • Peter J. LawrenceEmail author
Original Paper



Anxiety aggregates in families. The key putative environmental mediators of risk transmission from parents to children include parental psychological control and behavioral control, which are important features of parenting in Chinese culture. It is unclear, however, whether Chinese parents’ own anxiety is associated with their partners’ controlling behaviors and whether control mediates the transmission of anxiety. This study aimed to examine whether and how anxiety is transmitted from parents to children with a mediation model incorporating an actor–partner interdependent model.


We conducted a prospective longitudinal study with parents of Chinese children aged 7–12 years old (N = 651).


Our results found the intergenerational transmission of anxiety from parents to children and maternal transmission of anxiety was mediated by maternal psychological control. Parental anxiety was positively associated with parents’ own psychological, but not behavioral, control. The data showed no association between parents’ own anxiety and their partners’ psychological or behavioral control.


These findings support parental anxiety and maternal psychological control as critical risk factors in children’s development of anxiety in Chinese families.


Intergenerational transmission Anxiety Psychological control Behavioral control China 



This work was supported by the Advantage Discipline Projects of Social Sciences Planning of Shandong Province, PR China (19BYSJ34) and Family Intervention Study on Primary School Children Anxiety of Shandong Province, PR China (SDZ201812).

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.School of PsychologyShandong Normal UniversityJinanChina
  2. 2.School of PsychologyUniversity of SouthamptonSouthamptonUK

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