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The Role of Metacognitions in the Association between Children’s Perceptions of Maternal Control and Anxiety

Authors
  • Lønfeldt, Nicole N.1
  • Marin, Carla E.2
  • Silverman, Wendy K.2
  • Reinholdt-Dunne, Marie Louise1
  • Esbjørn, Barbara H.1
  • 1 University of Copenhagen, Department of Psychology, Copenhagen, Denmark , Copenhagen (Denmark)
  • 2 Child Study Center, Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, USA , New Haven (United States)
Type
Published Article
Journal
Journal of Child and Family Studies
Publisher
Springer US
Publication Date
Feb 17, 2017
Volume
26
Issue
5
Pages
1398–1408
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1007/s10826-017-0664-1
Source
Springer Nature
Keywords
License
Yellow

Abstract

We aimed to bring a developmental perspective to metacognitive theory. The metacognitive model (MCM) was originally developed for adults. However, an increasing number of studies demonstrate the MCM is relevant to child anxiety. Therefore, it is important to understand the origins of anxiety-specific metacognitions. Given the role experiences of controlling parenting play in maintaining and perhaps forming anxious cognitions or a cognitive vulnerability we focused on maternal behavioral and psychological control. Using a cross-sectional design, Danish school children (9–17 years old; N = 1062) rated their levels of anxiety and anxiety-specific metacognitions, and their mothers' controlling behavior. Child-perceived maternal psychological control was positively correlated with each anxiety specific metacognition (positive and negative worry beliefs, cognitive confidence, need to control, and cognitive self-consciousness). Child-perceived autonomy-granting was negatively correlated with all metacognitions except cognitive self-consciousness. Child perceived maternal psychological control was indirectly associated with anxiety via total metacognitions. Child-perceived autonomy-granting, but not psychological control, was directly related to anxiety. Given the differential findings for psychological control and autonomy-granting, we suggest that specific types of parenting behavior may be related to specific elements of (meta-) cognitive vulnerability. Our findings are theoretically important because they propose maternal psychological control is an environmental factor that may play a role in the development of a metacognitive vulnerability related to anxiety. A potential clinical implication of our findings is that metacognitive therapy for children should include a parental component.

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