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This study investigated the relative associations between parent and child anxiety and parents' cognitions about their children. One hundred and four parents of children aged 3-5 years completed questionnaires regarding their own anxiety level, their child's anxiety level and their cognitions about the child, specifically parents' expectations about child distress and avoidance, and parents' perceived control over child mood and behaviour. Both parent anxiety and parent report of child anxiety were significantly associated with parents' cognitions. Specifically, parent report of child anxiety correlated significantly with parent locus of control generally and, more specifically, with parental expectations and perceived control of child anxious mood and behaviour. Parent anxiety correlated significantly with locus of control and parents' expectations of child anxious mood and behaviour. Furthermore, when both child and parent anxiety were taken into account, only parental anxiety remained significantly associated with parental locus of control and perceived control of child anxious behaviour. For parents' perceived control of child anxious mood, only child anxiety remained significantly associated. The results suggest that parents' perceived control over their children's behaviour may primarily reflect parental anxiety, rather than child anxiety. Parental anxiety may, therefore, present an important target for interventions that aim to change parent's cognitions and behaviour. © 2007 The British Psychological Society.

Original publication




Journal article


British Journal of Developmental Psychology

Publication Date





435 - 441