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UBC Theses and Dissertations

An investigation of the relationship between parenting stress and anxiety disorders in young children Yu, Christine Margaret Shung-Bun


Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health disorder among children (Merikangas et al., 2010). If left untreated, anxiety disorders can cause significant impairment in functioning and persist into adolescence and adulthood (Ehrenreich & Santucci, 2009; Öst & Treffers, 2001). Although anxiety disorders are often responsive to psychological intervention and the literature suggests that they can be preventable with early detection and intervention (Hirshfeld-Becker et al., 2010), they often remain undetected and untreated. In order to contribute to early intervention efforts, it is important to understand risk factors associated with childhood anxiety disorders. Current theoretical models of childhood anxiety underscore the importance of reciprocal interactions between parents, their children, and environmental stressors. Specific factors, such as marital discord and parental anxiety, have been hypothesized to influence the development of anxiety disorders in children (Ginsburg, Siqueland, Masia-Warner, & Hedtke, 2004), and may highlight the association between family environment, parenting, and child anxiety disorders. Parental and family factors account for the intergenerational transmission of anxiety. Maternal stress has been indicated as a predictor of both internalizing and externalizing problems in children (Bayer, Hiscock, Ukoumunne, Price, & Wake, 2008). A significant body of research links children’s externalizing behaviour problems and parenting stress. Research has not focused as much attention on the connection between parenting stress and children’s internalizing problems, specifically anxiety disorders. This study proposes to explore the relationship between parenting stress and anxiety disorders in young children through a secondary analysis of data collected from a larger study.

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