The role of parental psychopathology and family environment for social phobia in the first three decades of life



Background: To examine the role of parental psychopathology and family environment for the risk of social phobia (SP) in offspring from childhood to early adulthood, encompassing the high risk period for SP. Methods: A community sample of 1,395 adolescents was prospectively followed-up over 10 years. Offspring and parental psychopathology were assessed according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) using the Munich Composite International Diagnostic Interview (M-CIDI), and direct diagnostic interviews in parents were supplemented by family history reports. Parental rearing was assessed by the Questionnaire of Recalled Rearing Behavior administered to offspring. Family functioning was assessed by the McMaster Family Assessment Device administered to parents. Results: Parental SP was associated with offspring's risk to develop SP (OR=3.3, 95%CI:1.4–8.0). Other parental anxiety disorders (OR=2.9, 95%CI:1.4–6.1), depression (OR=2.6, 95%CI:1.2–5.4), and alcohol use disorders (OR=2.8, 95%CI:1.3–6.1) were also associated with offspring SP. Parental rearing styles of overprotection, rejection, and lack of emotional warmth were associated with offspring SP. Family functioning measures were not associated with offspring SP. Analyses of interaction of parental psychopathology and parental rearing indicated combined effects on the risk for offspring SP. Conclusions: Parental psychopathology and rearing were associated with offspring SP, independently as well as in their interaction. Further delineation of these associations is warranted as malleable components of these risk factors may provide potential targets for prevention programs. In addition, parent-to-offspring transmission of other internalizing disorders should be considered to examine the degree of diagnostic specificity. Depression and Anxiety, 2009. © 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.