This study examined the relationship between behavioural inhibition, insecure mother-child attachment and evidence of anxiety in the offspring of mothers with anxiety disorders.
Twenty children aged 18 to 59 months who were born to 18 mothers with diagnosed anxiety disorders were examined for behavioural inhibition (Kagan's measures) and mother-child attachment (Strange Situation Procedure). Child anxiety was assessed using DSM-III-R criteria and the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL).
Sixty-five percent of the children were behaviourally inhibited. They showed more somatic problems and fewer destructive behaviours than those who were not inhibited. Eighty percent of the children were insecurely attached. They had higher CBCL internalizing scores than secure children and three of them met diagnostic criteria for anxiety disorders.
Though preliminary, this work suggests a need to identify children of anxious mothers as being at risk for anxiety, especially in the presence of inhibited temperament or attachment difficulties.