Social anxiety disorder can lead to depression and anxiety and can impede people's functioning in jobs and relationships. It is often thought to run in families but the genetic risk is modest suggesting that parenting and environment play a part too. Researchers know very little about how upbringing affects children's chances of developing anxiety disorder but some researchers think that the way in which children interpret what is going on around them and the influence their parents have on this could play a part. A team of researchers from the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands looked into this issue further in a study of 144 children aged between eight and 12. The children were presented with a series of ambiguous social scenarios in which either the father or the mother acted anxiously or confidently. In children who were highly socially-anxious the father's behaviour had a greater influence on their levels of confidence or anxiety but for children who had average or low levels of social anxiety the mother's role was more important. The results suggest that fathers could have an important role to play in boosting the confidence of socially-anxious children.
Bogels, Susan, Stevens, Juliette and Majdandzic, Mirjana - Parenting and social anxiety: fathers’ versus
mothers’ influence on their children’s anxiety in ambiguous social situations Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry doi:10.1111/j.1469-7610.2010.02345.x