Anxiety is learned from the same sex parent as the child

Photo by Vlada Karpovich on

Adapted from Medscape News by Megan Brooks July 13 2022

Transmission of anxiety appears to be sex specific. It spreads from mothers to daughters and from fathers to sons, new research shows.

Dr Barbara Pavlova from Nova Scotia says that findings suggest that anxiety is a learned behaviour from parents. Therefore, perhaps it is preventable. Effective treatment of anxiety in young adults, prior to parenthood, could make a difference to children too.

Anxiety disorders are known to run in families. Both genes and environment are thought to be at play.

If a mother for instance has an anxiety disorder, the chance of a daughter developing it, by an average age of 11 years old, is 2.85 times normal, but this is not the case for her son, who would have a normal risk.

Of 398 children studied 27% had been diagnosed with some sort of anxiety disorder including generalised anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, separation anxiety disorder or a specific phobia.

The rates increased with the age of the child from 14% in the under 9s to 52% in the over 14s. There was a similar rate of anxiety in both boys and girls. Rates were lower if one parent had the disorder and higher if two parents had the disorder. Dr Pavlova thinks that a child will tend to model themselves on their same sex parent.

Anxiety disorders are the most common psychiatric disorder and emerge earlier than mood disorders.

My comment: I was interested to see this information. My mother had GAD, generalised anxiety disorder, and I have had a specific phobia since I was about 9 (Spiders!). If I was going to get something I suspect that a common specific phobia is a lot less disruptive to life than GAD. The good news is that I’m not a pilot on a jet plane!

2 thoughts on “Anxiety is learned from the same sex parent as the child”

  1. I wonder if this is true how it works in non custodial parent households? My parents were not terribly superstitious. But of the two my dad had many crazy beliefs. Like never hand a knife to a person that is open. That cuts the relationship, However if you do you can get back on track by reversing the process. I used to participate in several atonement sessions for other people. Yes, that was crazy !!


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