Relations between parental autonomy support and child anxiety symptoms across elementary school in two-parent families

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Amy Leigh McCurdy (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Anne Fletcher

Abstract: Bidirectional associations linking parent autonomy support and child anxiety symptoms were investigated longitudinally across elementary school. A sample of 733 mothers, fathers, and teachers reported on child anxiety symptoms. Parent-child dyads participated in structured interaction tasks when children were 54 months, Grade 1, Grade 3, and Grade 5, which were later coded for parental autonomy support behaviors. Latent change score models were used to assess change in child anxiety symptoms and parent autonomy support from 54 months to Grade 1 and from Grade 3 to Grade 5, and to test whether initial level of each construct predicted change in the other construct during these periods, controlling for child depression symptoms and parent anxiety symptoms. Multigroup analysis was used to examine whether associations differed for girls and boys. Results indicated that relationship patterns for parental autonomy support and child anxiety symptoms differed between early and late elementary school and by parent gender. In early elementary school, mother autonomy support and child anxiety symptoms were correlated at 54 months, but father autonomy support was unrelated to child anxiety symptoms. During middle to late elementary school, child anxiety symptoms predicted change in mother autonomy support such that children with high anxiety in Grade 3 had mothers with lower-than-average increases in autonomy support. Father autonomy support predicted change in child anxiety symptoms such that highly autonomy-supportive fathers at Grade 3 had children with higher-than-average decreases in anxiety symptoms. Multigroup analyses indicated no statistically significant differences on key parameters by child gender. This study advances conclusions about the role that parental autonomy support plays in changing child anxiety symptoms for mothers and fathers during different periods in elementary school. Findings also have implications to aid development of targeted family-based intervention strategies to treat and prevent child anxiety symptoms during middle childhood.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2021
Anxiety symptoms, Autonomy support, Latent change score, Middle childhood, Parent-child interaction, Parenting
Autonomy in children
Anxiety in children
Parent and child

Email this document to