Mothers’ and Fathers’ Internalizing Symptoms Influence Parental Ratings of Adolescent Anxiety Symptoms

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Clinical assessment of anxiety in adolescents often involves multiple informants, and parental internalizing symptoms have been found to influence parent ratings of adolescents’ anxiety symptoms. We investigated how parental internalizing symptoms (anxiety and depression) were related to adolescent and parent reports of adolescents’ anxiety symptoms in a population-based cross-sectional survey. The sample comprised 337 adolescent–mother–father triads (N = 1,011) drawn from the Tracking Opportunities and Problems in Childhood and Adolescence (TOPP) study. Adolescents (43.9% boys) were 14- and 15-years old. Adolescent and parent ratings of adolescent anxiety symptoms (The Coolidge Personality and Neuropsychological Inventory for Children) were moderately and significantly correlated (mother–adolescent r = .30; father–adolescent r = .25). Parents also self-rated internalizing symptoms (Hopkins Symptom Checklist-25). Regression models showed higher maternal and paternal depression symptoms, but not anxiety symptoms, were associated with higher parent-rated adolescent anxiety symptoms. Higher maternal anxiety and depression symptoms, as well as paternal depression symptoms, but not paternal anxiety symptoms, were associated with lower parent-adolescent agreement on adolescent anxiety symptoms (i.e., parent-rating higher relative to adolescent-rating). When adolescents rate considerably lower anxiety compared with how their parents rate them, considering parental depression as a possible reason may be key to understanding adolescents’ treatment needs.

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