Title page for ETD etd-05042016-155125

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Ryan, Sarah M.
Author's Email Address sryan42@vt.edu
URN etd-05042016-155125
Title Parental Anxiety and Child Psychopathology: The Role of the Family Environment
Degree Master of Science
Department Psychology
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Thomas H. Ollendick Committee Chair
Jungmeen Kim-Spoon Committee Member
Susan White Committee Member
  • parental anxiety
  • family environment
  • child internalizing symptoms
  • child externalizing symptoms
Date of Defense 2016-04-25
Availability unrestricted
A sizeable proportion of adults suffer from an anxiety disorder and many of those adults are parents. Parental anxiety, as well as dysfunctional family environment, contributes to both internalizing and externalizing problems in children. Specifically, family control, conflict, and cohesion have been shown to predict child internalizing and externalizing symptoms to varying degrees. However, few studies have examined the association between all three components in the same study: parental psychopathology, family environment, and child outcomes. The current study tested the relationships among these variables in a sample of 189 children (66% male, 93% Caucasian, mean age = 10.34 years). Family conflict predicted child externalizing symptoms for both mothers and fathers, and mediated the relationship between maternal anxiety and child externalizing symptoms. Family cohesion predicted child externalizing problems based on maternal report and mediated the relationship between maternal anxiety and child externalizing symptoms. Furthermore, family cohesion moderated the relationship between maternal anxiety and child internalizing symptoms. These findings provide preliminary support for the role of the family environment in the relationship between parental anxiety and child psychopathology, and these environmental variables may be important targets of intervention in families with elevated parental anxiety.
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