Parenting Behaviors and Anxiety in Young Adults : Effortful Control as a Protective Factor

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Parenting behaviors – specifically behaviors characterized by high control, intrusiveness, rejection, and overprotection – and effortful control have each been implicated in the development of anxiety pathology. However, little research has examined the protective role of effortful control in the relation between parenting and anxiety symptoms, specifically among adults. Thus, we sought to explore the unique and interactive effects of parenting and effortful control on anxiety among adults (N = 162). Results suggest that effortful control uniquely contributes to anxiety symptoms above and beyond that of any parenting behavior. Furthermore, effortful control acted as a moderator of the relationship between parental overprotection and anxiety, such that overprotection is associated with anxiety only in individuals with lower levels of effortful control. Implications for potential prevention and intervention efforts which specifically target effortful control are discussed. These findings underscore the importance of considering individual differences in self-regulatory abilities when examining associations between putative early-life risk factors, such as parenting, and anxiety symptoms.

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