Relationships between Maternal Anxiety, Parental Rearing Style, Child Attachment and Separation Anxiety Disorder among First Graders in Bushehr City, Iran
Mofrad, Sakineh (2009) Relationships between Maternal Anxiety, Parental Rearing Style, Child Attachment and Separation Anxiety Disorder among First Graders in Bushehr City, Iran. PhD thesis, Universiti Putra Malaysia.
The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between maternal anxiety and separation anxiety disorder (SAD) in children. The assumption in this study was that perceived parental rearing style and child attachment types would mediate the relationship between maternal anxiety and SAD. One-hundred-and-twenty first graders and their mothers in Iran participated in this study. This study measured four dimensions of perceived parental rearing style, which include parental warmth, parental overprotection, parental rejection, and parental anxiety, as well as three types of child attachment, which comprise secure, avoidant, and ambivalent attachment. Three theories (Bowlby, 1969; Chorpita & Barlow, 1998; Parker, 1979) used in this study, discussed two main assumptions. First, anxious mothers controlled their children more. Due to the inability to use new experiences and new situations for adaptation, parental anxiety/overprotection, may in turn become ingrained during childhood. Second, children with insecure attachment may not be able to use identification effectively as a defense, necessitating the greater use of other more immature defenses to guard against distress. In order to complete the questionaires, each child was interviewed one by one in a private classroom. The children’s responses were recorded by the interviewer. The mothers were also asked to complete the instruments related their levels of anxiety and parental rearing style. The results were analyzed using descriptive statistics, t-test, chi-square, correlation, effect size and mediation analyses. The findings indicated that 35% of the children showed SAD symptoms and 36% of the mothers indicated recent psychological distress. The results showed significant relationships between maternal anxiety and SAD, parental rearing styles and child attachment types. In addition, there were significant relationships between parental rearing styles as well as child attachment types with SAD. The findings revealed that 37% of the children perceived their mothers as warm parents, 31% as anxious parents, 29% as overprotective parents and 3% as a rejecting parent. With regard to the child attachment types, the result showed a majority of the children (57%) were classified as secure, 15% avoidant and 28% classified as ambivalent. The comparison analyses showed the children with and without SAD symptoms differed significantly on all three types of child attachment as well as four dimensions of parental rearing styles. Further, the mediation analyses suggested that the parental anxiety, parental overprotection, as well as avoidant and ambivalent attachment partially mediated in the relationship between maternal anxiety and SAD in children. This finding suggested that besides the main parental rearing and child attachment, parent anxiety level may play an important role in the development of high anxiety levels in children. Additionally, these findings lend support to established theories that parental warmth is particularly important in environments characterized by high control acting as a protective factor and reducing child anxiety. These results allow for treatment strategies at the maternal, child, family, or school levels. Future research can extend these initial results to help obtain a broader and more in depth picture of these complex relationships.
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