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Transgenerational improvements following child anxiety treatment: An exploratory examination.

Research paper by Kristen K Lavallee, Kathrin K Schuck, Judith J Blatter-Meunier, Silvia S Schneider

Indexed on: 01 Mar '19Published on: 01 Mar '19Published in: PloS one



Abstract

The present study conducted secondary analyses of a randomized controlled trial to examine the transgenerational relationship between cognitive-behavioral therapy for child Separation Anxiety Disorder (SepAD) and the mental health of parents. Symptoms of anxiety and depression were compared before and after child treatment between parents of children treated for SepAD and parents of healthy children, who did not receive any treatment. One hundred and seven children aged 4-14 years with SepAD received one of two cognitive behavioral treatment programs for SepAD (TAFF; TrennungsAngstprogramm Für Familien; English: Separation Anxiety Family Therapy or CC; Coping Cat). Their parents (N = 189; 101 mothers and 88 fathers) were assessed at baseline and post-treatment for symptoms of separation anxiety, general anxiety, and depression. A comparison group of parents (N = 74; 42 mothers and 32 fathers) of 45 children without SepAD, who did not receive any treatment, were also assessed. Results indicated a significant interaction effect between group and time on mothers' depression and separation anxiety, indicating that maternal symptoms of depression and separation anxiety improved in the child treatment condition in comparison to mothers of healthy children. There was no significant improvement in parental pathology levels among fathers of children treated for SepAD. Treatment for child SepAD may have subsequent positive effects on mothers' own levels of separation anxiety and depression, though the mechanisms are yet unknown. Future studies are needed that test the transgenerational effect of child SepAD treatment on parental mental health as the primary research question.