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Research Review: The relation between child and parent anxiety and parental control: a meta-analytic review


  • Conflict of interest statement: No conflicts declared.

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    (These studies are marked with an asterisk in the References section).

Corine O. van der Bruggen, Department of Educational Sciences, Faculty of Social and Behavioral Sciences, University of Amsterdam, P.O. Box 94208, 1090 GE Amsterdam, The Netherlands; Tel: +31(0)205251558; Fax: +31(0)205251200; Email:


Background:  There is growing research interest in the association between parental control and child anxiety. Parental control may enhance child anxiety and parents may exert control in anticipation of their child’s anxiety-related distress. Moreover, high levels of anxiety in parents could influence the development of parental control. Whereas past reviews have solely examined the relation between child anxiety and parental control, this meta-analysis focuses on the associations between both child and parent anxiety and parental control.

Methods:  The associations of parent anxiety and child anxiety with observed parental control (= 23 studies, = 1,305 parent–child dyads) were investigated using a meta-analytic approach. Moreover, factors were identified that may function as moderators of these relations, such as parent and child gender, family socioeconomic status, child age, and design and measurement characteristics.

Results:  A substantial association between child anxiety and parental control (= .58) was found. Moderator analyses yielded the strongest effect sizes for studies with an overrepresentation of girls, for school-aged children, for families from higher socioeconomic backgrounds, and for studies using a discussion task to assess parental control. Although a nonsignificant relation was found for the relation between parent anxiety and parental control (= .08), small but significant effects were found for school-aged children, for studies using a discussion task to assess parental control, and for samples with an overrepresentation of boys.

Conclusions:  As the direction of the association between child anxiety and parental control is unknown, future studies should use experimental designs to further explore the causal link between child anxiety and parental control.