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

Abstract

Objectives

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.

Methods

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

Results

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.

Conclusions

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

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Fig. 1

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Funding

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).

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Correspondence to Fuzhen Xu or Peter J. Lawrence.

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Xu, F., Cui, W. & Lawrence, P.J. The Intergenerational Transmission of Anxiety in a Chinese Population: The Mediating Effect of Parental Control. J Child Fam Stud 29, 1669–1678 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-019-01675-3

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Keywords

  • Intergenerational transmission
  • Anxiety
  • Psychological control
  • Behavioral control
  • China