Parents and Coping with Worry

It seems likely, from the studies described above, that worried children employ different coping styles to their less worried peers. If this is the case, is it possible that they have learnt some of these coping styles from their families? In an unpublished study, (Vasey, Hilliker, Williams & Daleiden, 1993) cited in Vasey and Daleiden (1994), it is reported that parents of worried children differed from the parents of control children in the types of coping strategies that they thought children should use to control their worries. In particular, the parents of the worried children appeared to endorse avoidance and distraction strategies more strongly than the parents of the controls.

It is becoming clear that parents have an important role in teaching children to manage their emotions. For example, there is now a substantial literature outlining the role that parents have in helping their children to cope in difficult or stressful circumstances (in particular, stressful medical procedures e.g. Salmon and Pereira (2002)). This literature demonstrates that parents' responses and reactions explain a large proportion of the variance in their children's coping. It seems likely, therefore, that parents' reactions to their children's worry, and perhaps the responses that they model in reaction to their own worry, will have a role to play in teaching children their coping responses.

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