7 Ways Parenting Styles Affect Child Anxiety

Medical Reviewer
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Findings reveal how certain parenting styles work better than others. Parenting needs to be tailored to children’s personalities say psychologists and psychiatrists. With the right parenting style, there may be half as many anxiety and depression symptoms in school-aged children, whereas other parenting styles may lead to twice as many.


Parental overprotectiveness brings out the worse in children, according to the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association. An unusually high proportion of panic patients, he says, report having had overprotective parents. Overprotectiveness results in children experiencing stress in situations that others find un-threatening, and this can continue into adulthood.


Parents who view children as needing to be protected from stress tend to not to set limits on behavior, and they use distraction to stop their child from behaving inappropriately. Parents who view discipline as education require the child to accommodate their environment: a child playing in the trash, for example, would be told “no” and why they must stop. The latter approach helps children learn boundaries.


Parents who allow children to cope with day-to-day stressors, but who offer emotional and practical support, help their child to develop resilience and strategies for coping. Overprotective parents who take responsibilities away from their child increase the risk of childhood anxiety disorders developing.


The ability of a child to regulate their own emotions and actions is associated with lower levels of anxiety and depression. Some children appear to develop this “effortful control” regardless of parenting style and therefore have fewer symptoms of anxiety or depression.


Children are more likely to show symptoms of anxiety and depression when their parents use high levels of guidance or who provide little scope for their child to develop independent action or freedoms. This is the case even in children who show signs of effortful control.


The capacity for children to regulate their own emotions and actions varies considerably. In children with low effortful control whose mothers provide structure but less autonomy, anxiety levels are low. This appears to counter the idea that all children need autonomy to learn how to adapt to challenges. Children with low effortful control do seem to benefit from a little extra help and structure.


Children low in effortful control have double the anxiety symptoms if they have mothers who provide little control. In summary, children who have difficulties regulating their emotions and behaviors require and benefit from extra parental intervention. Children who have good levels of self-control have an increased risk of anxiety and depression if parents are over-controlling.