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Potential Role of Child Rearing Practices in the Development of Anxiety and Depression

Anxiety and Depression

Any form of continued distress in a child amounts to anxiety. Children have a lot of fears and worries. But over time, they learn to outgrow them and grow psychologically. They cannot outgrow their fears and worries that affect their academic and social activities, known as anxiety. Long term anxiety with suppression of their thoughts either voluntarily or involuntarily gradually leads to signs of depression.

Anxiety in a child may present in separation anxiety, social anxiety or overall general anxiety. Separation anxiety presents an extreme unwillingness to be separated from parents or guardians with physical symptoms like increased heart rate or hysteria. Social anxiety leads to people and places with phobias of particular things like doctors, insects and even foods.

Depression is a long term phase of suppressed anxiety leading to loss of self-esteem and attention deficit disorders. It also results in irritable behavior and even self-destructive tendencies in children occasionally.

What makes a Child Resilient?

Resilience is the ability of a child to overcome hurdles, failures, trauma and problems and take them in their stride. To become resilient, they need the support of their parents or caregivers to protect and nurture them. These relationships act as a shield or buffer for the child against social and emotional factors and disruptions. Without the shield, they become vulnerable to toxic stress. This starts eating at their self-confidence with becoming a barrier to healthy development.

What causes Anxiety and Depression in Children?

Causes for anxiety cannot be generalized and vary from one child to the other. What one child may overcome may be a hurdle for another. Usually, the death of a close one or a disruptive household with continuously fighting or separated parents brings about these changes. Sometimes physical problems like injuries or illness may also bring about these changes. Fear of examinations with frequent change of house or school is some other cause of anxiety in children.

Role of Child Rearing Practices in Anxiety

Child-rearing psychology is the pattern of raising children in adherence to a particular culture and set of laws. Child-rearing practices are manifested in the form of methods of discipline, expression of affection and degree of permissiveness. Clinical trials have proved that parenting and family processes play an important part in anxiety among children and that there is a significant relationship between parental control and anxiety. Parental rejection and control are the two major factors triggering anxiety in children. Parental rejection manifests in unresponsiveness to the child’s needs with added disapproval and lack of warmth. All of these behaviors increase the child’s sensitivity levels and subsequently risk factors for anxiety. Additionally, criticism tends to increase the negative perception of children about themselves and the world. This triggers social anxiety, with depression becoming the basis for a host of future psychological disorders.

Parental control is the extent to which parents manage and control their children’s routines, behavior, and overall lives. Overprotective parents tend to create an impression of an unsafe world for their children. This restricts their opportunity of experiencing safe risks, thus increasing their vulnerability to even safe environments. Over controlled parenting restricts their children from experiencing success or failure in low-risk situations. This affects their self-esteem and also impacts their problem-solving skills.

A Note on Child Psychology

Unlike parental rejection, parental control is characterized by over strictness with manipulation of their child’s independence without any regard for boundaries. All of which leads to a condition called Trait anxiety. Trait anxiety results in the children perceiving any environmental condition or stimuli as threatening. A person with trait anxiety is generally anxious in any situation about any outcome. For a child with trait anxiety, even a simple cold will be perceived as life-threatening and viewed as such. It often manifests in the form of over-concern of the child about any of his body symptoms. It is important to note that sometimes physical, mental or sexual abuse of the child without the parent’s knowledge may lead to trait anxiety symptoms.

A Child Reared by Parents with Anxiety.

Studies have proved that genetic factors play an essential role in the development of anxiety in kids. In a study conducted to analyze the role of heredity in children with anxiety symptoms, it was found that 60% of children with parents suffering from anxiety tended to be vulnerable to anxiety disorders. Similarly, 8 out of 10 parents with kids with anxiety disorders were suffering from anxiety themselves.

Parenting can be categorized into four types- authoritarian, authoritative, permissive and neglectful. Neglectful parenting is a clear factor of anxiety. But authoritarian parenting having control levels with low warmth levels is another trigger factor for anxiety. Anxious parents raise children who are not equipped to cope with the world into anxious adults.

How to Strengthen parent-child Relations?

Genetic factors, complicated neonatal conditions, and factors like trauma, environment change, or bullying cause a higher percentage of anxiety disorders. But the role of over-controlling, overprotective and criticizing guardians in anxiety should not be taken lightly. Negative verbal information, a leading cause of anxiety, should be avoided, along with propagating a positive environment and thoughts. In the case of children with parents suffering from anxiety, child supportive cognitive behavior therapy should be encouraged among the parents to better the child. If required, both the child and the parent should be included in therapy sessions to better either party.

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