Socially anxious mothers? narratives to their children, and their relation to child representations and adjustment

Lynne Murray, Jeff Pella, Leonardo De Pascalis, Adriane Arteche, Laura Pass, Ray Percy, Catharine Creswell, Peter Cooper

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Anxious mothers? parenting, particularly transfer of threat information, has been considered important in their children?s risk for social anxiety disorder (SAnxD), and maternal narratives concerning potential social threat could elucidate this contribution. Maternal narratives to their pre-school 4-5 year-old children, via a picture book about starting school, were assessed in socially anxious (N=73), and non-anxious (N=63) mothers. Child representations of school were assessed via Doll Play (DP). After one school term, mothers (CBCL) and teachers (TRF) reported on child internalizing problems, and child SAnxD was assessed via maternal interview. Relations between these variables, infant behavioral inhibition, and attachment, were examined. Socially anxious mothers showed more negative (higher threat attribution), and less supportive (lower encouragement) narratives, than controls, and their children?s DP representations, SAnxD and CBCL scores were more adverse. High narrative threat predicted child SAnxD; lower encouragement predicted negative child CBCL scores and, particularly for behaviorally inhibited children, TRF scores and DP representations. In securely attached children, CBCL scores and risk for SAnxD were affected by maternal anxiety and threat attributions, respectively. Low encouragement mediated the effects of maternal anxiety on child DP representations, and CBCL scores. Maternal narratives are affected by social anxiety, and contribute to adverse child outcome.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1531-1546
Number of pages16
JournalDevelopment and Psychopathology
Issue number4 part 2
Early online date25 Nov 2014
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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