The Role of Parental Beliefs About Anxiety and Attachment on Parental Accommodation of Child Anxiety

Abstract

This study examined: 1) the relationship between negative parental beliefs about child anxiety (i.e., it is harmful), insecure parental attachment and parental accommodation of child anxiety; 2) whether parental attachment insecurity moderates the effect of negative beliefs about anxiety on parent accommodation; and 3) a path model of parental factors affecting accommodation and child anxiety severity. Participants were 139 parents of children (6–18 years) with a primary anxiety disorder. Parents completed measures of parental accommodation of their child’s anxiety, beliefs about child anxiety, and attachment security. Child anxiety diagnosis and severity was determined using semi-structured clinical interviews. Negative beliefs about child anxiety were directly associated with levels of parental accommodation. There was no direct relationship between insecure attachment and accommodation; however anxious attachment moderated the effect of parental beliefs about anxiety on parental accommodation. Among parents with more secure attachment, negative beliefs about anxiety were associated with greater parental accommodation. However, among parents with less secure attachment, accommodation was high regardless of beliefs about anxiety. A path model suggested that negative beliefs about anxiety was related to increased parental accommodation, which in turn was related to increased child anxiety severity. Psychoeducation about the nature of anxiety is likely to be beneficial in helping to reduce accommodation among parents with more secure attachment styles. However, among those with greater anxious attachment, psychoeducation may need to be tailored to focus on corrective information about the impact of treatment processes on the parent–child relationship.

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Data Availability

De-identified data may be made available on request.

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Acknowledgements

The contribution of Valérie La Buissonnière-Ariza at University of South Florida in collecting data is gratefully acknowledged.

Funding

This project was funded by a grant from All Children’s Hospital Research Foundation and the National Institute of Mental Health (1R61MH115113-01A1; R21MH113946; 3MH103555).

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Carly Johnco, Eric Storch and Eli Lebowitz contributed to the study conception and design. Material preparation, data collection and analysis were performed by Carly Johnco, Eric Storch, Nicole McBride, Sophie Schneider, Wendy Silverman and Eli Lebowitz. The first draft of the manuscript was written by Carly Johnco and Ella Oar, and all authors have commented on previous versions of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Carly Johnco.

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Conflict of Interest

Nicole McBride report no conflicts of interest. Carly Johnco receives funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council, Australian Rotary Health and Macquarie University. Eric Storch receives funding from the National Institutes of Health, Red Cross, ReBuild Texas, IOCDF, Greater Houston Community Foundation, and Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. He is a consultant for Levo Therapeutics. He receives book royalties from Elsevier, Wiley, Springer, Lawrence Erlbaum, Kingsley, and Oxford University Press. He receives honorarium and travel fee for trainings from the IOCDF. Ella Oar receives funding from Australian Rotary Health and Macquarie University. Sophie Schneider receives funding from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, Red Cross, and the Misophonia Research Fund. Eli Lebowitz and Wendy Silverman receive funding from National Institute of Mental Health.

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Johnco, C., Storch, E.A., Oar, E. et al. The Role of Parental Beliefs About Anxiety and Attachment on Parental Accommodation of Child Anxiety. Res Child Adolesc Psychopathol (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10802-020-00722-8

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Keywords

  • Family accommodation
  • Child
  • Anxiety
  • Attachment
  • Parent
  • Beliefs