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Keywords:

  • family accommodation;
  • child/adolescent;
  • anxiety disorders;
  • family/marital;
  • obsessive compulsive disorder;
  • assessment/diagnosis

Background

Family accommodation describes ways in which parents modify their behavior to help a child avoid or alleviate distress caused by emotional disorders. Accommodation is associated with increased symptom severity, lower functioning, and poorer treatment outcomes. Accommodation is prevalent in childhood obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and anxiety disorders (ADs) but no studies have compared accommodation in these groups or compared them to healthy controls to ascertain if accommodation is prevalent in the general population. This study addresses these gaps by comparing patterns of accommodation, factors that maintain accommodation, and its relation to symptom severity in OCD and AD, relative to healthy controls.

Method

We directly compared reports of accommodation to childhood OCD (N = 26) and AD (N = 31), and a comparison group of nonanxious (NA) children (N = 30). Mothers completed measures of accommodation (Family Accommodation Scale (FAS)/Family Accommodation Scale–Anxiety (FASA)), anxiety (Screen for Childhood Anxiety Related Emotional Disorders–Parent Report (SCARED-PR)), and OCD (Children's Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale (CYBOCS)).

Results

Family accommodation is prevalent among mothers of children with OCD and AD. Few differences were found between the two clinical groups who reported more accommodation (F[2,84] = 23.411, P < .001, partial η2 = .358), greater distress (F[2,84] = 24.050, P < .001, partial η2 = .364), and more consequences of not accommodating (F[2,84] = 18.967, P < .001, partial η2 = .311), than the NA group. Accommodation was associated with severity of anxiety in AD (r = .426, P = .017) and OCD (r = .465, P = .017), but not in the NA group.

Conclusions

Findings highlight family accommodation as a phenomenon that applies broadly and in a similar manner to children with AD and OCD. Evaluating accommodation provides useful information for clinical care and is an important part of the assessment of children with AD and OCD.