Temperament, family environment and anxiety in preschool children

Jennifer Hudson, Helen Dodd, Nataly Bovopoulos

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This research examines the relationship between behavioural inhibition (BI), family environment (overinvolved and negative parenting, parental anxiety and parent-child attachment) and anxiety in a sample of 202 preschool children. Participants were aged between 3 years 2 months and 4 years 5 months, 101 were male. A thorough methodology was used that incorporated data from multiple observations of behaviour, diagnostic interviews and questionnaire measures. The results showed that children categorised as behaviourally inhibited were significantly more likely to meet criteria for a range of anxiety diagnoses. Furthermore, a wide range of family environment factors, including maternal anxiety, parenting and attachment were significantly associated with BI, with inhibited children more likely to experience adverse family environment factors. No interactions between temperament and family environment were found for child anxiety. However, a significant relationship between current maternal anxiety and child anxiety was found consistently even after controlling for BI. Additionally, there was some evidence of a relationship between maternal negativity and child anxiety, after controlling for BI. The results may suggest that temperament and family environment operate as additive, rather than interactive risk factors for child anxiety. This is discussed in the context of theoretical models of child anxiety and directions for future research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)939-951
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Abnormal Child Psychology
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2011

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