Date of Award

12-15-2016

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Erin B. Tone

Second Advisor

Dr. Nicole Caporino

Third Advisor

Dr. Lindsey Cohen

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Erin Tully

Abstract

Over-controlling parenting practices, particularly parents’ tendency to “rescue” children from experiencing distress, both limit children’s exposure to anxiety-provoking situations and restrict opportunities for development of adaptive coping skills (Barlow, 2002; Suveg et al., 2006). Research is just emerging regarding internal factors, such as maladaptive beliefs about child anxiety, that may lead parents to engage in rescue behavior. Additionally, much of this re cent work is limited by its exclusive use of informant-report methodology. A primary goal of the present study was therefore to examine associations between parent beliefs about child anxiety and rescue behavior using an experimental design. Parental rescue behavior was precisely operationalized as the speed at which parents intervened to rescue an increasingly distressed child facing an anxiety-provoking situation, which was presented in an audio clip (Aschenbrand & Kendall, 2012). An additional aim of the present study was to (a) evaluate whether a brief psychoeducational intervention would impact immediate parent behavior during the audio paradigm and (b) examine whether the intervention would interact with parental experiential avoidance, a cognitive factor assumed to be more pliable than longstanding beliefs, to do so. A nonclinical sample of 310 parents was recruited from an online crowdsourcing platform, Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. The hypothesis that parental negative beliefs about anxiety would relate positively to parents’ speed of rescue in the audio recording was supported. The hypothesis that participants who received psychoeducation versus benign information would delay their rescue response was also supported. The hypothesis that parental experiential avoidance would moderate the association between the intervention and rescue behavior was not supported. However, parental unwillingness to experience child distress, a component of experiential avoidance, was found to relate to parents’ latency to rescue at the trend level. Findings contribute to recent work identifying cognitive factors that contribute to countertherapeutic parent behavior (e.g., Settipani & Kendall, 2015) and indicate the importance of psychoeducation in family-based treatment of child anxiety. Results are discussed in light of research on parent beliefs, behavior, and treatment of anxiety; directions for future research are proposed.

Available for download on Wednesday, December 05, 2018

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