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

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

  • Nicole N. Lønfeldt
  • Carla E. Marin
  • Wendy K. Silverman
  • Marie Louise Reinholdt-Dunne
  • Barbara H. Esbjørn

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.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Child and Family Studies
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)1398-1408
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2017

    Research areas

  • Anxiety, Children, Metacognitive model, Overprotection, Parenting behavior

ID: 196737681