Child anxiety and parenting in England and Italy: the moderating role of maternal warmth
- Conflicts of interest statement: The authors have declared that they have no competing or potential conflicts of interest.
Parenting factors have been implicated in the aetiology and maintenance of child anxiety. Most research has been correlational with little experimental or longitudinal work. Cross-cultural comparison could be illuminating. A comparison of Italian and British children and their mothers was conducted.
A sample of 8- to 10-year old children, 60 Italian and 49 English, completed the Spence Child Anxiety Scale. Mothers also completed two questionnaires of parenting: the Skills of Daily Living Checklist (assessing maternal autonomy granting) and the Parent–Child Interaction Questionnaire (assessing maternal intrusiveness). Parenting was assessed in two video-recorded blindly rated mother–child interaction tasks, the ‘belt-buckling tasks and the ‘etch-a-sketch’, providing objective indices of overcontrol, warmth, lack of autonomy granting, and overprotection.
There were no differences between the children in overall anxiety and specific forms of anxiety. Parenting, however, was markedly different for the two countries. Compared to English mothers, on the two questionnaires, Italian mothers were significantly less autonomy granting and more intrusive; and in terms of the observed indices, a significantly greater proportion of the Italian mothers displayed a high level of both overprotection and overcontrol, and a low level of autonomy granting. Notably, Italian mothers evidenced significantly more warmth than English mothers; and maternal warmth was found to moderate the impact of self-reported maternal intrusiveness on the level of both overall child anxiety and the level of child separation anxiety; and it also moderated the relationship between both observed maternal intrusiveness and overall child anxiety and observed maternal overprotectiveness and child separation anxiety.
Although, compared to the British mothers, the Italian mothers were more likely to evidence high levels of parenting behaviours previously found to be anxiogenic, the high levels of warmth displayed by these mothers to their children appears to have neutralised the adverse impact of these behaviours.