Since anxiety runs in families, which is something we’ve known for a while, new study reveals that anxiety disorders are handed down from mother to daughter and that having a father who doesn’t experience anxiety shields males from getting the problem.
Researchers examined a dataset of around 400 Canadian kids aged approximately 10 who had previously taken part in a research on families at risk for mood disorders to examine the influence of nature vs nurture in the development of anxiety.
If genetics were a more significant factor, anxiety disorders would probably affect kids of both sexes at roughly the same incidence, whether the anxiety problem was passed down by the mother or the father.
A clear pattern of transmission from mother to daughter and father to son would be anticipated if children were getting anxiety problems as a result of imitating and learning from a same-sex parent.
The researchers discovered the latter, at least in part.
According to the study, children who had a same-sex parent who had an anxiety issue had approximately a threefold increased risk of experiencing the same problem as their peers. (To our knowledge, transgender children or adults were not included in the research.)
In the study, a mother’s anxiety problem (but not a father’s) increased the likelihood that their daughter would be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.
The likelihood of sons acquiring an anxiety condition was not increased by the presence of an anxious father, but it was decreased in the absence of one.
In general, having an opposite-sex parent who is anxiety-free was not as protective as having a same-sex parent who is anxiety-free.
Due to the observational and retrospective nature of the study, cause and effect could not be established.
Given the two-way feedback loop, the researchers noted that if a causal relationship existed, it would be difficult to determine which way it was functioning, suggesting that children may be making their parents worried rather than the other way around.
However, the researchers add that if a causal relationship is found, treating parents’ worry may be able to stop the intergenerational transmission of anxiety disorders.
Previous research has shown that children might learn anxiety-related behaviors from their parents.
For instance, in a study where parents were given the option of acting calmly or nervously as their children practiced spelling words, it was discovered that the children adopted the parents’ attitude, developing worried thoughts and avoidance techniques.
A increased likelihood of anxiety problems in children has been linked by other research to parental anxiety disorders.