An observational study of parent-child behaviours in paediatric OCD: Examining the origins of inflated responsibility

Sharna L. Mathieu*, Lara J. Farrell, Allison M. Waters, Jean Lightbody

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Inflated responsibility is a well-established belief domain relevant to the development of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and is proposed to develop during childhood (Salkovskis, P.M., Shafran, R., Rachman, S., & Freeston, M.H. (1999). Multiple pathways to inflated responsibility beliefs in obsessional problems: possible origins and implications for therapy and research. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 37(2), 1055-1072). However, parental enhancement of such beliefs have rarely been examined. This study explored the proposed pathways of development for responsibility biases in paediatric OCD by examining parent-child behaviours during a family discussion task. 24 children with OCD (mean age=12.96), 20 control children (mean age=13.13) and their parents participated in this study. Dyads discussed an ambiguous scenario for five minutes with the goal of finding a solution. Parent behaviours of autonomy granting and overinvolvement, as well as parent-child behaviours of warmth, withdrawal, aversiveness and confidence were independently coded along with parent and child enhancement of responsibility for solving the problem. Parents in OCD dyads were observed to be significantly more aversive than control parents. Children with OCD were significantly less warm and more withdrawn than control children. Irrespective of group membership, parents enhanced their child's responsibility more than their own when generating solutions. These findings add to the literature on parent-child variables that play a role in enhancing OCD related beliefs such as inflated responsibility.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)132-143
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Family interaction
  • Inflated responsibility
  • Observation
  • OCD


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