Author ORCID Identifier

Date of Award

Summer 8-10-2021

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Erin Tone

Second Advisor

Lindsey Cohen

Third Advisor

Laura McKee

Fourth Advisor

Erin Tully


Anxiety is a highly prevalent childhood condition. Multiple factors contribute to the onset and maintenance of anxiety among children; parenting behaviors constitute one such factor, and research has yielded evidence linking parenting strategies to the development of childhood anxiety. Understanding these relationships is important, given that many parenting behaviors are modifiable; targeting these behaviors through intervention may help to alleviate and prevent anxiety. A focus of research has been on a strategy termed “Parental Overcontrol” (PO). PO is defined as an excessive amount of involvement in, and control over, a child’s environment and experiences, and has been shown to relate to child anxiety.

Most of the evidence for an association between overcontrolling behaviors and anxiety comes from studies with samples composed primarily—or entirely—of mothers. Studies including fathers have typically neglected to discuss potential differences between the implications of paternal and maternal overcontrol. Consequently, the nature of the relationship between paternal overcontrol behaviors and childhood anxiety is not well-understood. Some theories of fathers’ roles suggest that effects of parenting behaviors may differ by parent gender. Specifically, some models suggest that fathers’ influence on their children is weaker. If this is the case, then the association between PO and child anxiety may be stronger for mothers, which could hold implications for prevention and treatment.

The goal of this study was to compare relationships between child anxiety and PO behaviors in mothers and fathers. Using data gathered from a large sample of parents recruited online, I used structural equation modeling to test a model of PO and child anxiety, as reported by both fathers and mothers on a well-validated set of measures. Structural equation models displayed good fit across samples. There was not a statistically significant difference between models for mothers and fathers. These findings suggest that mothers’ and fathers’ overcontrolling behaviors have similar associations with child anxiety, which adds important information to a body of literature that has historically de-emphasized the role of fathers. These results have the potential to inform recommendations regarding caregiver involvement in treatment. Limitations of the study and directions for future research are discussed.


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