Nav: Home

Mothers of socially anxious children take involvement to the next level

January 18, 2017

When mothers of children with social anxiety disorder try to support their children, it often backfires. The results of an experiment involving building difficult puzzles indicate that, even at home, mothers of children with the disorder are more involved with their offspring than mothers of healthy control children. These findings indicate behavioral control on the part of the mother, says Julia Asbrand of the Institute of Psychology in Freiburg, Germany, in Springer's journal Cognitive Therapy and Research.

Social anxiety disorder (SAD) usually emerges in late childhood or early adolescence. It affects up to seven percent of children and can persist into adulthood if left untreated. It entails a persistent fear of being embarrassed in social settings, and can limit children's lives in regard to the social relationships they are able to form, their academic performance and their general well-being.

Most studies that in some way assessed the important role of the family with regard to SAD have been done within a laboratory setting. To extend research on the matter, Asbrand's team conducted their experiment in the homes of 55 pairs of mothers and children (aged between 9 and 13 years old, with and without SAD). This was done to assess their interaction within their natural environment.

The children had to complete as many difficult tangram puzzles as possible within ten minutes, and were told that they would receive the results afterwards. The mothers were allowed but not encouraged to help. The puzzle-building simulated a typical task such as homework or preparation for school that could induce mental stress and frustration. The sessions were videotaped without the experimenter being presented.

According to Asbrand, the finding that mothers of children with SAD are more involved in their offspring's lives are in line with those of previous studies. She says such overinvolvement extends to helping with tasks such as preparing for school, as well as tasks that require interaction. In the experiment, it was noted that mothers of children with SAD touched the puzzle pieces significantly more often and assisted without the child asking for help or showing overt signs of helplessness. These results indicate behavioral control on the part of the mother. On the positive side, mothers of SAD children were not overly critical or negative about their children's performance.

"By touching the puzzle, mothers may convey the impression that the child is not able to solve the puzzle alone, thereby limiting the child's degree of self-efficacy," Asbrand elaborates. "Consequently, this kind of control may lead the child to constantly expect a threatening environment, which could increase hypervigilance and subjective fear. Such behavior by mothers also limits their children's opportunity to successfully apply coping strategies to new situations on their own."

Asbrand sees value in focusing on ways to change interactional processes within families, for instance by training parents to react more flexibly towards their children.
-end-
Reference: Asbrand, J. et al. (2017). Maternal parenting and child behaviour: An observational study of childhood social anxiety disorder, Cognitive Therapy and Research. DOI 10.1007/s10608-016-9828-3

Springer

Related Behavior Articles:

Religious devotion as predictor of behavior
'Religious Devotion and Extrinsic Religiosity Affect In-group Altruism and Out-group Hostility Oppositely in Rural Jamaica,' suggests that a sincere belief in God -- religious devotion -- is unrelated to feelings of prejudice.
Brain stimulation influences honest behavior
Researchers at the University of Zurich have identified the brain mechanism that governs decisions between honesty and self-interest.
Brain pattern flexibility and behavior
The scientists analyzed an extensive data set of brain region connectivity from the NIH-funded Human Connectome Project (HCP) which is mapping neural connections in the brain and makes its data publicly available.
Butterflies: Agonistic display or courtship behavior?
A study shows that contests of butterflies occur only as erroneous courtships between sexually active males that are unable to distinguish the sex of the other butterflies.
Sedentary behavior associated with diabetic retinopathy
In a study published online by JAMA Ophthalmology, Paul D.
Curiosity has the power to change behavior for the better
Curiosity could be an effective tool to entice people into making smarter and sometimes healthier decisions, according to research presented at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association.
Campgrounds alter jay behavior
Anyone who's gone camping has seen birds foraging for picnic crumbs, and according to new research in The Condor: Ornithological Applications, the availability of food in campgrounds significantly alters jays' behavior and may even change how they interact with other bird species.
A new tool for forecasting the behavior of the microbiome
A team of investigators from Brigham and Women's Hospital and the University of Massachusetts have developed a suite of computer algorithms that can accurately predict the behavior of the microbiome -- the vast collection of microbes living on and inside the human body.
Is risk-taking behavior contagious?
Why do we sometimes decide to take risks and other times choose to play it safe?
Neural connectivity dictates altruistic behavior
A new study suggests that the specific alignment of neural networks in the brain dictates whether a person's altruism was motivated by selfish or altruistic behavior.

Related Behavior Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Bias And Perception
How does bias distort our thinking, our listening, our beliefs... and even our search results? How can we fight it? This hour, TED speakers explore ideas about the unconscious biases that shape us. Guests include writer and broadcaster Yassmin Abdel-Magied, climatologist J. Marshall Shepherd, journalist Andreas Ekström, and experimental psychologist Tony Salvador.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#513 Dinosaur Tails
This week: dinosaurs! We're discussing dinosaur tails, bipedalism, paleontology public outreach, dinosaur MOOCs, and other neat dinosaur related things with Dr. Scott Persons from the University of Alberta, who is also the author of the book "Dinosaurs of the Alberta Badlands".