Growing-up Family Experience and the Interpretive Style in Childhood Social Anxiety

The connection between parents’ experience in upbringing and child’s social anxiety is huge, to say more, this connection is indirect, the higher parents’ experience in the children’s upbringing, the lower child’s social anxiety. The relation may be easily explained, as when parents are with the experience, and this experience is good, they know how to make their child enter the society without any problems, which ways to choose and which behavior to provide. The relationship between growing-up family experience and the interpretive style in childhood social anxiety may be analyzed from different points of view and children’s behavior may be easily changed if to provide these children with training and to implement right parents behavior.

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To start with, the reasons for the child’s social anxiety should be considered. The analysis of the reasons for social anxiety as the consequences of some parental actions was investigated by Wyer (1965), who provided his experiment on 40 parents and their children (from 3.5 till 5.5). Parents were asked some questions, and children were asked to imagine the situation and the responses, which they had to provide. In other words, they had to select the way out, the actions, which are the most relevant for them. The conclusions, which are offered by Wyer (1965), are that the reasons for children social anxiety in most cases are described by the “magnitude of the absolute difference between parents in their acknowledged child-rearing attitudes and behavior and the degree to which the mother exceeded the father in warm personal contact with the child” (p. 480).

Waters et al (2008) tried to find the relation of anxious and non-anxious control parents and the level of children’s interpretation of bias in the society. The results were predictable, but contradicting, as proof that the anxiety of parents does not influence the children’s anxiety. In other words, the interpretational biases were influenced by cognitive factors, which were not related to parental anxiety (p.40). The same ideas are introduced by Hadwin, Garner & Perez-Olivas (2008), who provided their parallels investigations, analyzed the existing literature, and implemented their experiments, came to the conclusion that parents’ social anxiety does not influence much children’s social anxiety, but the problem is that the reasons, which caused parental anxiety is also the reasons, which cause children’s social anxiety, so in such a way these notions are related (p. 889).

Bogels et al. (2001) argues the previous result and is sure that mother’s anxiety (the stress is given on mother, not father or parents in general) influences child’s anxiety on a high level. The main reason, which is ken in the base of the conclusion, is that children pay more attention to mothers, while fathers stay more aside. The following reaction may be the conclusion of mothers’ high level of emotionality, while fathers mostly hide their emotions. The child’s anxiety may be also the result of parent’s fears and lack of parents’ sociability, which led to different child’s understanding of the surrounding world (p. 285).

Family studies, provided by Bogels & Brechman-Toussaint (2006), implemented some new ideas in the relation of children’s anxiety and parents’ one. The social anxiety disorders of the family members were the main reasons for child’s social anxiety disorders, which were caused by several factors, introduced as (1) attachment, (2) inner relations in the family, marital conflicts, some aspect of family functioning, sibling relationships, and other factors, which are grouped by the issue of family relations, (3) some strategies used by parents during rearing, and (4) beliefs, that parents maintain on their children. All these issues were used while identifying their relationship to the child’s anxiety and they all were taken as the reasons for the child’s anxiety and the proof of its relation to parental anxiety. The same results were achieved by Bogels and Melick (2004), when they investigated the relation of parents, mothers’ and fathers’ anxiety to children’s one differently and in combination. Nordin, Eisemann & Richter (2005) in their experiment also found the direct influence of the upbringing methods on the signs of social anxiety in children. Their argument was that the way parents rear children influences all children activities, even in the future, the way of rearing may be the reason for providing this or that conclusion, especially in the social theme, as parents teach children to behave in the society and implement their own fears, if present, on them.

Some scientists identify interpretation as one of the main reasons for social anxiety, as sometimes people’s interpretation of some facts or situations may lead either to social anxiety or avoidance of it. Miers et al. (2008) believe that interpretational biases of social anxiety influence people’s understanding of the social context and their behavior, which is stated by “content specificity of interpretation bias” (p. 1461), which combine not only generalized anxiety, but also social phobias and separated anxious groups. The age groups, which took part in Miers et al. (2008) experiment ranged from 12 to 16 years, which allowed making the conclusion that all understanding of society and life is already structured and interpretations, provided by the experementees are for life. The variety of interpretation bias was also found in gender differences, and female genders were concluded to perceive the social tendencies with negative interpretation more (Miers et al. 2008, p. 1469).

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Taylor and Alden (2005) implemented the experiments of the anxious interpretation of parents, and their negative influence on children. The experiment shoved that parents’ hostility of most social interpretations also influenced the children’s interpretations of some social events, and the parents’ behavior was copied in most cases (Taylor & Alden, 2005, p. 761; Eisen et al, 2004). The question of interpretation was also considered by Vassilopoulos and Banerjee (2008), and the results of the experiment, which were analyzed deeper, because not just interpretation was involved, but also the judgment of the situation and the conclusions of the experementees. The results of Vassilopoulos and Banerjee (2008) experiment provides convincing evidence that “childhood social anxiety is characterized by a similar pattern of information processing to that shown by socially anxious adults and as predicted by cognitive theories of anxiety” (Vassilopoulos & Banerjee, 2008, p. 875).

Banerjee and Watling (2008) found proofs of relation of self-presentational behavior of children to their social anxiety. Furthermore, Banerjee and Watling (2008) have identified the relation of social anxiety and negative peer outcome. The results are consistent, as “social anxiety early in development may be associated with a range of tactics designed to gain favorable responses from others as well as to avoid making undesirable impressions” (Banerjee & Watling, 2008, p. 6). Evaluating the differences of anxious and non-anxious children, and concluded that social anxious children “demonstrated lower expected performances and a higher level of negative self-talk on social-evaluative tasks” (Spence, Donovan & Brechman-Toussaint, 1999, p. 211).

The versa experiment was offered by Caster, Inderbitzen and Hope (1999), who researched the perceptions of children of parental anxiety in family environment. The results are similar, but just viewed from the other position. Those, whose parents are socially anxious, perceive that social anxiety better, while those, whose parents are non-anxious about society, perceive anxiety less (Caster, Inderbitzen & Hope, 1999). Knappe et al. (2009) believe that not only parental influence make children socially anxiety, but also the unfavorable family environment, as family surrounding is one of the main influences on child mental and behavioral abilities. The unfavorable environmental in the family leads t some fears and phobias, the perceiving of society as alien substance and these children not often go on contact and become socially anxiety.

In conclusion, the relationship between growing-up family experience and the interpretive style in childhood social anxiety may be analyzed from different points of view and children’s behavior may be easily changed, if to provide these children with trainings and to implement right parents behavior. The conclusions of the experiments of different scientists were introduced, and all of them confirmed the relation of parental anxiety with child’s one. It should be noticed, that mother’s social anxiety influences child more than father’s, and the reasons for it may be the high level of mother’s emotiveness. Family environment is also rather important in the issue, as unfavorable family environment adds to the general child’s social anxiety and may cause some additional problems.

Reference

Banerjee, R. & Watling, D. (2009). Self-presentational features in childhood social anxiety. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 1-8.

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Bogels, S. M. & Brechman-Toussaint, M. L. (2006). Family issues in child anxiety: Attachment, family functioning, parental rearing and beliefs. Clinical Psychology Review, 26, 834-856.

Bogels, S. M. & Melick, van M. (2004). The relationship between child-report, parent self-report, and partner report of perceived parental rearing behaviors and anxiety in children and parents. Personality and Individual differences, 37, 1583-1596.

Bogels, S. M., Oosten, van A., Muris, P., & Smulders, D. (2001). Familial correlates of social anxiety in children and adolescents. Behavioral Research and Therapy, 39, 273-287.

Caster, J. B., Inderbitzen, H. M., & Hope, D. (1999). Relationship between youth and parent perceptions of family environment and social anxiety. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 13(3), 237-251.

Eisen, A. R., Spasaro, S. A., Brien, L. K., Kearney, C. A., & Albano A. M. (2004). Parental expectancies and childhood anxiety disorders: psychometric properties of the Parental Expectancies Scale. Anxiety Disorders, 18, 89-109.

Hadwin, J. A., Garner, M., & Perez-Olivas, G. (2008). The development of information processing biases in childhood anxiety: A review and exploration of its origins in parenting. Clinical Psychology Review, 26, 876-894.

Knappe, S., Beesdo, K., Fehm, L., Hofler, M., Lieb, R., & Wittchen, H. (2009).Do parental psychopathology and unfavorable family environment predict the persistence of social phobia? Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 23, 986-994.

Miers, A. C., Blote, A. W., Bogels, S. M., & Westenberg, P. M. (2008).Interpretation bias and social anxiety in adolescents. Journal of Anxiety Disorder, 22, 1462-1471.

Nordin, H., Eisemann, M., & Richter, J. (2005). Memories of parental rearing and perceived self-image in groups of chronic pain patients. European Journal of Pain. 9, 277-284.

Spence, S. H., Donovan, C., & Brechman-Toussaint, M. (1999). Social skills, social outcomes, and cognitive features of childhood social phobia. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 108(2), 211-221.

Taylor, C. T. & Alden, L. E. (2005). Social interpretation bias and generalized social phobia: the influence of developmental experiences. Behavior Research and Therapy, 43, 759-777.

Vassilopoulos, S. P. & Banerjee, R. (2008). Interpretations and judgments regarding positive and negative social scenarios in childhood social anxiety. Behavior Research and Therapy, 46, 870-876.

Waters, A. M., Craske, M. G., Bergman, R. L., & Treanor, M. (2008). Threat interpretation bias as a vulnerability factor in childhood anxiety disorders. Behavioral Research and Therapy, 46, 39-47.

Wyer, R. S. (1965). Effect of child-rearing attitudes and behavior on children’s responses to hypothetical social situations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2(4), 480-486.

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