A recent study out of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and published in the journal Child Psychiatry and Human Development, points to a potential link between parental social anxiety and the development of anxiety disorders in children.
Lead researcher Golda Ginsburg, Ph.D. looked at 66 upper middle class parents and their 66 children ranging in age from 7 to 12 years old. Parents were diagnosed with social anxiety disorder (SAD) (30%) or another anxiety disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder or obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).
Parents were asked to complete a task with their child, such as copying etch-a-sketch designs or preparing a speech. The pairs were then observed for a number of behaviors.
Results of the study showed that parents with SAD showed less warmth and affection towards their children, were more critical of their children, and expressed more doubts about their child's ability to complete a task.
It is likely that these parental behaviors will increase the likelihood that children will develop anxiety disorders later in life. Although genetics play a role in the development of SAD, environmental factors also have an influence. The researchers argue that parental behaviors can be controlled and are the catalysts that need to be monitored.
What do these study results mean if you are a parent with SAD? It is important to think about the potential impact of your behaviors on your children. You might not even realize that you are being critical or doubtful; this might just be your way of relating to the world.
In any case, you owe it to your children to take a long hard look at your behavior and how you might be influencing their development.
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