Family process and child anxiety and aggression

an observational analysis

Mark R. Dadds*, Paula M. Barrett, Ronald M. Rapee, Sharon Ryan

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    197 Citations (Scopus)


    Barrett, Rapee, Dadds, and Ryan (1996) described a phenomenon whereby family discussions magnified the style of children's problem solving in a way characteristic of their particular clinical diagnosis. That is, anxious children became more avoidant, aggressive children more aggressive, and nonclinic children more prosocial, after discussing ambiguous hypothetical situations with their parents. This study examined specific sequences of communications exchanged between parents and children hypothesized to underlie this family exacerbation of child cognitive style. Family discussions were videotaped and categorized for groups of anxious, aggressive, and nonclinic children and their parents. Results revealed differences between groups of parents in frequency of agreeing with and listening to their child and the frequency of pointing out positive consequences. Conditional probability analyses showed that parents of anxious children were more likely to reciprocate avoidance, while parents of nonclinic children were more likely to agree with and listen to prosocial plans from their child. Differences in parent behaviors observed during the family discussions were reliably associated with the child's response to the ambiguous situation proposed after the family discussion. Results support a model of developmental anxiety and aggression that emphasizes the interaction of family processes and social-cognitive development in the child.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)715-734
    Number of pages20
    JournalJournal of Abnormal Child Psychology
    Issue number6
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 1996

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