Maternal phobic anxiety and child anxiety

Gail A Bernstein, Ann E. Layne, Elizabeth A. Egan, Lara P. Nelson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


The present study examined the relation between maternal anxiety symptoms and child anxiety symptoms and evaluated whether a reporting bias is associated with maternal anxiety. Fifty-seven mother-child pairs participated. All children had features or diagnoses of separation anxiety disorder (SAD), generalized anxiety disorder, and/or social phobia. Measures of maternal symptomatology and child anxiety were administered. Higher levels of maternal phobic anxiety on the Brief Symptom Inventory were significantly associated with higher levels of separation anxiety in children. After controlling for clinician rating of SAD severity, maternal phobic anxiety emerged as a significant predictor of maternal ratings of child separation anxiety, accounting for 19% of the variance. Phobic mothers endorsed levels of separation anxiety in their children that exceeded levels endorsed by clinicians, suggesting maternal overreporting.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)658-672
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Anxiety Disorders
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2005

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was funded by grants from the National Institute of Mental Health (R21 MH65369), the University of Minnesota Academic Health Center, and the Minnesota Medical Foundation to Dr. Bernstein. The authors acknowledge Sarah Evans, B.A. and Dana Tennison, M.A. for collecting the data and Marie Wang, M.D. for creating the database. The authors thank the participating schools and families.


  • Maternal anxiety
  • Separation anxiety disorder


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