Intergenerational transmission of anxiety: The influence of parental anxiety on child-related information processing biases

  • Ross Mackenzie

Student thesis: Doctor of Clinical Psychology


This thesis examined the association between parental anxiety and child-related information processing biases. Paper 1 describes a review of the extant literature concerning information processing biases in anxious parents. Although the published research in this area was found to be limited and characterised by contradictory findings, both parental threat interpretation biases and biases in parental estimations, evaluations and expectancies were found to be associated with parental anxiety. Furthermore, evidence that these biases influence the processing of child-related information as well as self-referent information was identified. In addition to these findings, the review highlighted a number of weaknesses within the literature, specifically in relation to study design, methods of measurement and sample characteristics.In order to address the limitations of existing measures of child-related parental threat interpretation, a more methodologically rigorous approach for assessing the interpretation of ambiguity was adapted for use with parents. As reported in Paper 2, fifty-four community-based parents with a child aged between two and eleven years participated in an experiment designed to measure whether state anxious parents interpret ambiguous situations involving their child as threatening. Results indicated no difference in patterns of interpretation between state anxious and non-state anxious parents. Methodological weaknesses associated with the study design prevented definitive conclusions regarding the existence of a child-related threat interpretation bias in anxious parents from being made.In Paper 3, the approaches used within the current thesis are evaluated in terms of their strengths and weaknesses. Clinical implications of the findings are discussed and ideas for further research are outlined.
Date of Award31 Dec 2011
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorRachel Calam (Supervisor), Anja Wittkowski (Supervisor), Benjamin Laskey (Supervisor) & Dawn Adams (Supervisor)

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