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Parenting Styles and Anxiety Sensitivity Essay

Statement of the problem

At the end of this study the researches aim to answer these questions: 1. Is there a significant relationship between parenting styles and anxiety sensitivity? 2. Which among the three parenting style has the highest probability of producing anxious children? 3. Which among the demographic factors affect the parenting style of the mothers?

Review of Related Literature

It has long been proposed that parent-child relationships (particularly a child’s perceptions of these relationships) play an important role in child adjustment and psychological development (Safford et al., 2007).Since 1966, researchers have conducted a great deal of research evaluating parent child interactions using the prototype of parental patterns developed by Baumrind (1966 & 1971), i.e., authoritative, authoritarian and permissive. Baumrind (1971) grouped parent’s behavior according to whether they were high or low on parental demandingness and responsiveness. Each of these parenting styles reflected different naturally occurring patterns of parental values, practices and behaviors (Baumrind, 1991). Authoritative parents strive to provide clear, firm direction, but discipline is moderated by warmth and reason (Buri, 1991). Permissive parents are non-controlling, and they use minimal punishment. Authoritarian parents are highly directive, and they value unquestioned obedience.

Authoritarian parents are characteristically less warm, they discourage verbal give-and-take, and they use punitive methods to control their children’s behavior (Gfroerer, et al., 2011). It is important then to examine the type of parenting in which the child is exposed to at such a young age because it will have impact on their lives later on. During adolescence, various biological, cognitive, emotional, and social changes take place that affect the parent-child relationship (Lerner et al., 1996). Hence, it is essential to further in some factors that have influenced parenting styles in this particular period of life (Düzgün, 1995). Suppose parenting styles play a vital role in the development of anxiety disorders, it then becomes key in understanding how overprotective parenting aggravates the development of the anxiety symptoms (Erozkan, 2012).

Given the importance of anxiety sensitivity for understanding emotional problems, it is important to also gain a better understanding of the nature of anxiety sensitivity (Taylor, 1995). Because family is one of the largest environmental factors impacting a child’s life, it is important to understand how a child’s family affects the development of anxiety symptoms in children. Furthermore, since it is a child’s parents who usually create the family environment, it is essential to understand which characteristics of parents or parenting contribute to the development of anxiety (Nanda et al., 2011). Chorpita and Barlow (1998) hypothesized that early life experiences involving excessive parental control can cause an individual to believe that events in one’s life are uncontrollable and unpredictable, which then contributes to the development of anxiety.

That is, children who experience excessive parental control may believe that they have no internal control over their lives, since their parents are the ones who control everything; this, in turn, can lead to the development of anxiety. Further, parents with high levels of anxiety sensitivity may intervene more often, as they observe signs of anxiety in their children, judging these symptoms as harmful (Erozkan, 2011). In accordance to this, the aim of this research is to uncover the significant relationships between anxiety sensitivity and parenting styles.

In the study conducted by Chambers et al. (2004), it is said that poor parenting style has been associated with anxiety and mood disorders among children. In this study, parenting styles were divided into two dimensions which are care and control. Under the dimension of care, parents are seen as warmth and understanding, while under the dimension of control, parents are seen as over-protective or intrusive. Patients with anxiety disorders were also tested in the study and Chambers et al. (2004) found out that those patients with anxiety disorders perceived poor parenting from both their mothers and fathers, while those who have no anxiety disorders report their parents as having optimal parenting. This suggests that optimal parenting may be considered as a factor in predictive recovery of the children.

The study also concluded that paternal and maternal parenting styles have an effect on children. Poor parenting from mothers was associated with having a diagnosis in male participants, while poor parenting from fathers was associated with having a diagnosis in female participants. Parents who scored high in care and high in control were seen as having positive parenting style than parents who scored low in care and either high or low in control. Based on the results of the study, it is evident that parenting styles have an impact when it comes to children’s development of anxiety and or recovery from anxiety. Children who have parental care are more likely to perceive an optimal parenting and less likely to experience anxiety. Children who are already diagnosed with anxiety disorder are more likely to recover if their parents exhibit a positive parenting style.

In a different study conducted by Lindhout et al. (2009), child temperament and child-rearing are said to be risk factors in child’s development of anxiety disorders. Parents of children having anxiety disorder exhibit a parenting style which is characterized by over-control and increased criticism. Also, children whose parents show less care or more control are said to be vulnerable to anxiety. The characteristic or temperament of the child may also give rise to the type of parenting style a parent uses and in return, may also strengthen the child’s characteristics. Parenting styles may depend on the characteristic or temperament of the child and at the same time, the characteristic or temperament of the child may also depend on the parenting style of their parents.

This suggests that parenting serves as a moderator between temperament and anxiety (Lindhout et al., 2004). Also, children whose parents show less care or more control are said to be vulnerable to anxiety. Similar with the study of Chamber et al. (2004), Lindout et al’s. (2009) study also mentioned that parenting styles add an interesting component to the prevention of anxiety disorders among children. Temperament (shyness) appeared to be strongly related to anxiety levels in early childhood, but parenting style which is high in control showed more contribution to the anxiety that surface in middle childhood or preadolescence, even among children who were not initially anxious (Lindhout et al., 2004).

According to the study of Oort et al. (2011), anxiety has several risk factors such as family or peer influences, and factors that are proximal to the individual. This study also considered temperamental characteristics as associated with anxiety. Family factors include parenting styles with high rejection and overprotection, parenting stress, and parental anxiety and depression. In the result of the study, Oort et al. (2011) found out that some of the important risk factors in preadolescence were low self-competence, rejecting and overprotecting parenting, and being a bully-victim. These risk indicators decrease toward age 16-17 years old. The risk factors that remain stable in high levels of anxiety were temperament, parental lifetime internalizing problems, and being a victim of bullying. Based on these result, it can be said that parenting styles contribute to the anxiety level of the children and may not be disregarded. It is important to consider this factor as contributing to anxiety of children so that anxiety may be prevented and parents will be educated on this matter (Lindhout, 2009).

In the study conducted by Niditch and Varela (2012), two dimensions of parenting styles were studied which are acceptance/rejection and autonomy-granting/control. Parental control is said to limit the child’s exposure to developmentally appropriate autonomous experiences and self-guided problem solving (Niditch and Varela, 2012). It was also mentioned that controlling parents lead to anxiety by reducing the child’s experience of mastery of challenges in his or her environment. According to the “transactional and cyclical” nature of the relationship between parental control and child anxiety as mentioned by Niditch and Varela (2012), the parent takes action for the child in order to relieve the child’s distress, which often leads to the child feeling anxious in more situations. Parental rejection on the other hand, parents show criticism, arbitrary blame or punishment, and withholding warmth. Parental rejection teaches children that positive outcomes are rare and are not the result of their actions, and this often leads to anxiety.

It also said that parental rejection has less contribution when it comes to developing anxiety in children than parental control. It is important to consider the developmental stage in studying the effect of parental control on anxiety since parent’s controlling behaviors tend to change or increase through late childhood and decline towards adolescence (Niditch and Varela, 2012). It is also possible that changes in parenting styles affect anxious adolescents differently from non-anxious adolescents. This result manifests because anxious adolescents may perceive normative changes in control parenting style as increasing rejection. In adolescence, rejection is more associated with anxiety than control. Results of the study also revealed that maternal rejection was a predictor of anxiety.

As explained by Niditch and Varela (2012), mothers are the nurturing caregivers and they pass on unique importance on maternal emotion socialization to their children, and that disruption to this role may result to reduced sense of emotional competence, which then leads to increased anxiety. Parents play an integral role in a child’s development because it is them who first interacted with the children. According to Ryan and Lynch (1889) “secure attachment to parents fosters a healthy self-confidence in adolescents as it does in other developmental stages.”

Because of this, it is essential to know the possible effects of early parenting in the child’s cognitive, social, and emotional aspects. It is widely assumed that the nature and quality of the interactions between parents and adolescents can contribute to young people’s well-being (Bandura, 1997). Diana Baumrind in 1966 was able to present three primary parenting styles that can be used to categorize the parents’ behaviour towards the children. Later on in 1983, Macoby and Martin presented the fourth parenting style called the neglectful and Lamborns et al. (1991), were able to find supporting empirical results for this.

As stated by Karavasilis, Doyle, and Markiewicz, (2003), authoritative parents are highly demanding, highly responsive and the same time grants autonomy. Authoritarian parents are characterized by high demandingness, low responsiveness and low levels of autonomy granting. Parents who are
permissive show high levels of responsiveness and autonomy but low level of demandingness. A neglectful parent shows low levels of demandingness, responsiveness and autonomy granting.

One important area that has been emphasized as contributing to the development of childhood anxiety is parenting (Chorpita and Barlow, 1998). The parent–child relationship appears to be one contributor to the development and/or maintenance of child social anxiety. A relationship between social anxiety and a parenting style marked by overprotection (or high control) and low warmth has been repeatedly demonstrated in various age groups and within both clinical and developmental areas of psychological study. (Bruch et al. 1989). This suggests that the parenting style practiced by the parents is influential in the development of social anxiety in children. Spokas and Heimberg (2008) said that “a family environment marked by affective involvement and behavioral control (which is likely related to parental overprotection) predicted one’s sense of control over anxiety symptoms, which then contributed to anxiety.”

Traditional models of childhood anxiety sought to explain the development of anxiety in terms of single main effects and focused primarily on the broad parenting dimensions of acceptance versus rejection and psychological granting of autonomy versus psychological control (Rapee, 1997). As stated by Clark and Ladd (2000), parental rejection connotes low levels of parental warmth, approval, and responsiveness. This in turn can weaken the children’s emotions that make him or her sensitive to anxiety that may lead to having anxiety problems. Parental control involves excessive parental regulation of children’s activities and routines, encouragement of children’s dependence on parents, and instruction to children on how to think or feel (Barber, 1996).

Theoretical models have hypothesized that when parents are highly controlling in contexts when it is developmentally appropriate for children to act independently (e.g., attending elementary school), children may experience decreased self-efficacy, and thus, increased anxiety (Wood, 2006). Adolescent years are often portrayed as the hardest stage as a teenager, because it is both tense for the parents and the teens. As said by Kopko (2007), teens undergo a number of developmental adjustments together with the changes on becoming an adult. These are related to the biological, cognitive, emotional and social changes as a teen. To be an effective parent, it requires having methodical understanding of these developmental changes. Kopko (2007) stated that the parent’s parenting style gives a healthy outcome for the developmental changes.

There are different kinds of parenting styles and different impact that can help parents with their parent-teen relationship and the teens to find smooth ways in the adolescent developmental changes. According to Kopko (2007), Baumrind (1971, 1991) has four patterns of parenting style that was based on the two aspects of parenting behavior which is the parental warmth and control. Parental warmth is how a parent accepts and responses to the child and parental control is how a parent manages the behavior of the child. There are different ways of combining the two aspects of parenting behavior and if so there are four parenting styles that come into view. But in this study the researchers will only have three of the parenting styles of Baumrind; Authoritarian, Authoritative and Permissive.

Kopko (2007) explained all the four patterns of parenting style, but the researcher will mainly focus on the other three parenting styles. Authoritative parenting style is a parent that shows warmth but secure towards the child. The parent reassures that the child can be able to do anything or be independent yet should also know ones limitations and control in their decision and actions. A child that has experienced an authoritative parenting style may likely to be socially capable, responsible and independent. Authoritarian parenting style is a parent that shows a little bit of warmth and more on the control towards the child. The parents are strict and controlling, they use a disciplinary style towards their child and they insist that their directions to the child will be followed. A child that has experienced an authoritarian parenting style may likely to be rebellious or dependent. A child that turns out to be rebellious has the tendency to show aggressive behaviors and a child that is more passive or submissive is dependent towards the parent.

Permissive parenting style is a parent that shows warmth and no control toward the child. The parent is easygoing, understanding and passive and believes that by reciprocation to the wants of the child will show their love. A child that has experienced a permissive parenting style may likely to be self-centered and have no self-control. As stated by Biradar (2006), the youth is a period of time where the maturity in physical and psychological attributes change. The youth is likely to build his or her own identity and to acquire skills for socially responsible behavior. The youth’s change to adulthood can have a smooth process enabled by the presence and guide of securing, nurturing, and understanding parent. If there will be an emotional connection or bonding and communication between the parent and the child it is enough reason that the youth can be emotionally and socially capable, responsible and independent.

Taylor (2007) discussed that anxiety sensitivity is the fear of arousal-related sensations, and saying that these sensations have harmful consequences. There are three basic dimensions of anxiety sensitivity; the first dimension is the fear of publicly observable anxiety reactions, the second dimension is the fear of thinking that it is unable to control one’s behavior, and the last dimension is the fear of somatic sensations. Anxiety sensitivity contributes to the intensity of one’s emotional reactions.

According to Stein (1999), anxiety sensitivity is the fear of anxiety-related sensations. In the expectancy theory, an individual may become anxious whenever a symptom is experienced by an individual may tend to avoid certain activities, events, and places that will trigger anxiety. Stein (1999) also explained that if an individual has a high level of anxiety sensitivity, it is said to be that the individual is more likely to be a threat or danger if the individual experiences anxiety symptoms. Kashdan et. al. (2008) said that anxiety sensitivity can be a variable risk factor for anxiety problems and anxiety sensitivity is uniquely have a connection to escape and avoidance behavior of an individual.

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