Although scientists have long known that anxiety runs within families, researchers are now warning that the attitudes of over-anxious parents strongly affects their children’s behaviour.
The new research has come to light following a study that followed parents who were identical and non-identical twins which means that it was possible to estimate the effect of genetic versus environmental factors affecting transmission from one generation to another.
Adult parents from identical twin pairs were found to show greater similarity in anxiety levels to their own adolescent children than their nieces or nephews. This suggests that living together is a key driver within families for anxiety - even after accounting for the genetic influence.
The lead author of the study, Thalia Eley reassured parents with anxiety disorders that they don’t necessarily have to resign themselves to the fact that their children will bear the same traits however.
“There are many things that can be done at home to prevent or reduce anxiety in children and adolescents. While a natural tendency when your child is anxious is to try and protect them, it can be more helpful to support them in taking small age-appropriate risks. This will teach them that the world is generally a safe place and they can manage situations that initially seem stressful, developing their sense of mastery and in turn, promoting resilience.”
Journal Editor, Dr Robert Freedman commented:
“This study is a landmark because it’s the first to clearly establish the early transmission of anxiety symptoms with parents to children, not through their shared genetic background, but rather from the way in which anxious parents raise their children. Parents who are anxious can now be counselled and educated on ways to minimise the impact of their anxiety on the child’s development.”
If you think that you could be suffering from anxiety, please feel free to visit our Depression and Anxiety Treatment Programmes page for more information about the signs, symptoms and treatments available. You can also contact us for help today.