Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.


Psychological and Brain Sciences

Committee Chair

Woodruff-Borden, Janet

Author's Keywords

African-American; Ethnicity; Parent-child interaction; Anxiety; Control; Families


African American families--Mental health; Parenting--Psychological aspects; Anxiety


To investigate the effects of anxiety and ethnicity on parental control as well as the effects ethnicity, anxiety, and parental control have on child diagnostic severity, anxious African American and Caucasian families were compared. Sixty-nine parent-child dyads completed the study. Forty-two mothers in the sample suffered from an anxiety disorder whereas twenty-seven mothers did not meet criteria for any current or past psychopathology. Parent-child dyads were videotaped as they completed two mildly stressful tasks together. Parental and child behaviors during the interactions were coded to obtain an objective measure of parents' behavior. Data were reduced to produce four behavioral composites one of which, "overcontrolling," was used to assess objective ratings of parental control. Subjective parental control was assessed by two self-report measures of parenting behaviors. Four hierarchical linear regressions were conducted. It was hypothesized that parental anxiety would predict high control in Caucasian families whereas parental anxiety would predict low parental control in African American families. It was further hypothesized that parental control would positively predict child diagnostic severity in anxious Caucasian families whereas parental control would negatively predict child diagnostic severity in anxious African American families. Ethnicity did not significantly predict parental control in either group. As expected, parental anxiety predicted child diagnostic severity. Ethnicity did not significantly predict child diagnostic severity as an outcome variable. The interaction term of ethnicity and parental anxiety failed to predict both objective ratings of parental control and subjective ratings of parental control. The interaction term of ethnicity, parental control (both objective and subjective ratings), and parental anxiety failed to predict child diagnostic severity. Exploratory analyses indicated that both subjective parental control and ethnicity play integral roles along with parental anxiety in predicting child diagnostic status. Exploratory analyses further indicated that anxious Caucasian parents and highly controlling Caucasian parents are more likely than African American parents in general to have an anxious child. Findings from the current sample indicate that anxious African American and Caucasian parents do not seemingly differ with regard to control behaviors toward their children, although African Americans seem less likely to have an anxious child. Future directions are discussed in terms of matched samples of African American and Caucasian families, within group comparisons of African American families, further objective measurement, improved subjective ratings of parental control, and larger sample size.