Assessing parental cognitions about child anxiety: Are parents' thoughts about child anxiety associated with child anxiety and anxiety sensitivity?

J Anxiety Disord. 2021 May:80:102400. doi: 10.1016/j.janxdis.2021.102400. Epub 2021 Apr 16.


Anxiety sensitivity (AS) or the fear of anxious symptomatology, has garnered support in both adult and child samples for its predictive validity of anxiety disorders. Recent efforts to identify familial factors that predict anxiety amongst youth have identified a construct similar to AS amongst parents, but instead focused on the child rather than on the self. The overarching goal of the present study was to examine the extent to which two measures of this construct [the Parent Sensitivity to Child Anxiety Index (PSCAI) and the Parental Beliefs about Anxiety Questionnaire (PBA-Q)] correlated with child and parent AS and anxiety and how these measures explained the relationships between parent- and child-reported AS and anxiety. A secondary aim of the present study was to psychometrically compare the PSCAI and the PBA-Q with respect to not only their convergence with parent and child AS and anxiety, but also the extent to which each mediated the parent-child relationships between these variables. The PSCAI and PBA-Q significantly mediated the relationship between parent and child AS, each yielding small significant indirect effects. Support was also observed for a double mediation model in which parental anxiety predicted parental AS, which predicted parental beliefs about and parental sensitivity to child anxiety, which in turn predicted child anxiety. Findings suggest that both parental beliefs about and sensitivity to child anxiety are both correlated with and partially explain the relationship between parent and child AS and anxiety, providing potential points of intervention in treatment and prevention efforts for child anxiety.

Keywords: Anxiety sensitivity; Child; Parent; Parent Sensitivity to Child Anxiety Index; Parental Beliefs about Anxiety Questionnaire.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anxiety
  • Anxiety Disorders*
  • Cognition
  • Humans
  • Parent-Child Relations
  • Parents*