The relationship between challenging parenting behaviour and childhood anxiety disorders

Rebecca S. Lazarus*, Helen F. Dodd, Mirjana Majdandžić, Wieke De Vente, Talia Morris, Yulisha Byrow, Susan M. Bögels, Jennifer L. Hudson

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    34 Citations (Scopus)


    Background This research investigates the relationship between challenging parenting behaviour and childhood anxiety disorders proposed by Bögels and Phares (2008). Challenging parenting behaviour involves the playful encouragement of children to go beyond their own limits, and may decrease children's risk for anxiety (Bögels and Phares, 2008). Method Parents (n=164 mothers and 144 fathers) of 164 children aged between 3.4 and 4.8 years participated in the current study. A multi-method, multi-informant assessment of anxiety was used, incorporating data from diagnostic interviews as well as questionnaire measures. Parents completed self-report measures of their parenting behaviour (n=147 mothers and 138 fathers) and anxiety (n=154 mothers and 143 fathers). Mothers reported on their child's anxiety via questionnaire as well as diagnostic interview (n=156 and 164 respectively). Of these children, 74 met criteria for an anxiety disorder and 90 did not. Results Fathers engaged in challenging parenting behaviour more often than mothers. Both mothers' and fathers' challenging parenting behaviour was associated with lower report of child anxiety symptoms. However, only mothers' challenging parenting behaviour was found to predict child clinical anxiety diagnosis. Limitations Shared method variance from mothers confined the interpretation of these results. Moreover, due to study design, it is not possible to delineate cause and effect. Conclusions The finding with respect to maternal challenging parenting behaviour was not anticipated, prompting replication of these results. Future research should investigate the role of challenging parenting behaviour by both caregivers as this may have implications for parenting interventions for anxious children.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)784-791
    Number of pages8
    JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
    Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2016


    • Anxiety disorders
    • Challenging parenting behaviour
    • Fathers
    • Mothers


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