Associations between maternal awareness and children's fearfulness and anxiety
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[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT REQUEST OF AUTHOR.] Fearful temperament in the toddler years is a well-established precursor to risk for childhood anxiety. Less is known about the mechanisms by which stability in risk occurs, or under which conditions stability may be moderated. Mothers may be particularly influential in the developmental trajectories of fearful children. In particular, maternal protective and intrusive behaviors have been identified as occurring with great frequency with fearful children, and this may result from children's elicitations of these behaviors. Certainly, not all mothers react to displays of fear with protection or intrusiveness. The current studies focused on the maternal characteristic of awareness, or mothers' abilities to predict their toddlers' fearful reactions to novelty, as a moderator of the association between fearful temperament and maternal behavior. Two studies examined the role of maternal awareness in early associations between fearful temperament and maternal behavior. In the first study, results suggested that mothers of more temperamentally fearful toddlers who more accurately predicted their fearful behavior demonstrated more protective behavior with them in novel tasks. In this moderated relation, protective behavior then predicted mother-reported anxiety and mothers' self-reported overprotection when children entered kindergarten. In the second study, this moderation was examined further for additional conditions that specify when it occurs. Maternal awareness moderated the relation between fearful temperament and protective behaviors displayed in lower-threat contexts but not high-threat contexts. This moderation occurred for boys but not for girls and when mothers reported having higher parent-centered goals and internal attributions for their children's shy behavior. Results are discussed within the developmental psychopathology perspective of anxiety development and prevention.
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