The relationship between parenting and the development of anxiety in toddlers moderated by gestational age
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Anxiety in early development has several negative consequences on the development in adolescence and adulthood. It is of importance to study factors associated with anxiety in toddlerhood in order to improve prevention and intervention programs. This study examined the relation between parenting (structure and psychological control) and anxiety in toddlerhood, and whether this relation was moderated by gestational age. Participants were 83 Dutch mothers of moderately preterm children (32-36 weeks’ gestation) and 83 mothers of children born at term (>37 weeks’ gestation). When their child was 4 years old, mothers completed the Comprehensive Early Childhood Parenting Questionnaire (CECPAQ) to measure parenting and the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) to measure anxiety in toddlers. Two multiple regression analyses were executed. Results demonstrated that compared to term born children, preterm born children showed higher levels of anxiety. Furthermore, parental structure predicted less anxiety in children. The relation between parental psychological control and anxiety in children was not found. Also, the expected moderating role of gestational age on the relation between parenting and anxiety was not found. Because moderately preterm toddlers in particular show higher levels of anxiety, this group should be targeted for the prevention of anxiety disorders. Interventions should focus on parental structure in ameliorating anxiety symptoms in toddlers.