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Keywords:

  • FMR1;
  • temperament;
  • parenting stress;
  • behavioral inhibition

Abstract

Children with fragile X syndrome (FXS) demonstrate high rates of anxiety disorders, with 65–83% meeting diagnostic criteria. The severity of anxiety symptoms in FXS has been shown to be partially predicted by elevated negative affect across early childhood [Tonnsen et al. (2013a); J Abnorm Child Psychol 41:267–280]. This association suggests that biologically driven vulnerability emerges early in development, as is reported in non-clinical populations. However, anxiety emergence is likely moderated by multifaceted genetic, biological and environmental risk and protective factors. Mothers with the FMR1 premutation have been shown to exhibit elevated parenting stress and internalizing symptoms, which have each been associated with child behavior problems [Bailey et al. (2008a); Am J Med Genet Part A 146A:2060–2069 and Bailey et al. (2008b) Am J Med Genet Part A 146A:720–729]. Despite these findings, it is unclear whether maternal factors directly relate to anxiety vulnerability in high-risk children with FXS, a question essential to informing targeted, family-sensitive treatment. The present study examines how maternal protective and risk factors relate to child inhibition reflected in (1) child anxiety symptoms, (2) child trajectories of negative affect, and (3) the association between child anxiety and negative affect. Primary predictors include maternal parenting stress, indicators of mental health risk (anxiety and depressive symptoms), and maternal optimism. We also examine genetic correlates in mothers (CGG repeats, activation ratio, mRNA). Our findings suggest that behavioral inhibition in young children with FXS is associated with higher parenting stress and lower optimism, and higher parenting stress is associated with lower maternal X-activation ratio. These findings underscore the need for family-sensitive treatment strategies for anxiety disorders in children with FXS. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.