Journal of Child and Family Studies

, Volume 20, Issue 2, pp 232–239 | Cite as

The Association Between Elevated Maternal Panic-Like and Depression Symptoms and Separation-Related Interpretive Biases in Offspring

  • Gisela Perez-Olivas
  • Jim Stevenson
  • Julie A. Hadwin
Original Paper


We explored the association between maternal panic-like and depression symptoms with the offspring’s separation-related interpretive bias in a community sample. Separation anxiety has been found to be a precursor of panic disorders; therefore we focused on children and adolescents’ (aged 7–14 years) interpretive bias tapping into separation concerns using a story-based task. We collected self-reports and maternal reports of the levels of separation anxiety in the offspring. To assess maternal panic-like symptoms, we measured interoceptive and agoraphobic fears; as they have been found to increase the likelihood of experiencing panic disorders. The results showed that elevated levels of maternal interoceptive fears and agoraphobia co-occurring with depression were associated with an interpretive bias that related to separation anxiety concerns in children and adolescents. Offspring whose mothers experienced elevated panic-like symptoms together with depression did not show an interpretive bias linked to generalized anxiety concerns, suggesting the bias is content specific. The clinical significance of these findings stems from giving insight as to what extent separation interpretive biases would be influenced by maternal mental health variables, as these biases could constitute a vulnerability factor for later psychopathology. Further research is merited to address the findings with a longitudinal approach.


Separation anxiety Maternal depression Maternal interoceptive fears Maternal agoraphobia Interpretation bias 



We would like to thank all the families and children that took part in the study. We would also like to thank the Economic Social and Research Council (E.S.R.C) for funding the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gisela Perez-Olivas
    • 1
  • Jim Stevenson
    • 2
  • Julie A. Hadwin
    • 2
  1. 1.School of Medicine Health Policy and PracticeUniversity of East AngliaNorwichUK
  2. 2.Developmental Brain-Behaviour LaboratoryUniversity of SouthamptonSouthamptonUK

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