Various parenting behaviors (e.g., protection, intrusiveness, sensitivity) have been shown to impact young children’s anxiety development, particularly for temperamentally inhibited children. These behaviors have sometimes predicted both increases and decreases in anxiety in inhibited children, suggesting that linear relations may not adequately model their influence. In the current study, we proposed the dimension of encouragement to approach novelty to characterize parenting behavior ranging from very little encouragement (i.e., protective behavior) to very strong encouragement (i.e., intrusiveness), with gentle encouragement residing in the middle. In a sample of 110 toddlers (48 female, 62 male) and their mothers, the linear and curvilinear effects of this parenting dimension were investigated in relation to change in child separation anxiety and shyness from age 2 to age 3. Inhibited temperament was also investigated as a moderator. Encouragement to approach novelty displayed the hypothesized curvilinear relation to change in separation anxiety, but not shyness, at extreme levels of inhibited temperament. Toddlers increased in separation anxiety when mothers’ encouragement resided at either extreme end of the continuum, with lower child anxiety occurring when mothers displayed behavior closer to the middle of the continuum. Implications for the study of parenting outcomes for inhibited toddlers are discussed.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Developmental and Educational Psychology
- Psychiatry and Mental health