June 17, 2024

Emotion dysregulation helps explain the link between overprotective parenting and social anxiety

Adolescents are more likely to have difficulty managing their emotions when mothers and fathers are overprotective, according to new research published in the report. Journal of Social and Personal Relations. This difficulty in handling emotions appears to be a central link between overprotective parenting and higher social anxiety among teenagers.

Social anxiety is a serious problem that affects many young people and can lead to a number of issues such as depression, substance abuse, and dropping out of school early. Previous studies have shown that overprotective parenting can contribute to social anxiety, but it is not clear why this is the case. The researchers suspected that how children and adolescents manage their emotions may play a role.

“My main area of ​​interest is parenting and what parental factors contribute to the development and well-being of their offspring,” said study author Louise Mathijs, a PhD researcher at the Université Libre de Bruxelles in Brussels.

“Therefore, we wanted to see if overprotective parenting practices, which is a topic of increasing attention, affects the well-being of their teenagers, and if these teenagers can adopt some emotion regulation strategies to mitigate these potentially harmful effects.”

To carry out the study, the researchers used a sample of 278 young people from Switzerland who were in the last year of compulsory secondary school. They asked the students to fill in questionnaires about their level of social anxiety, their perception that their parents were overprotective, and their strategies for managing emotions. They looked at the views of both mothers and fathers separately.

The researchers focused specifically on three emotion regulation strategies: suppression (avoiding or hiding emotions), dysregulation (not being able to control or manage emotions), and integration (understanding and using emotions in a healthy way).

The researchers then used a statistical technique called structural equation modeling to examine the relationships between these variables. They wanted to know if emotion regulation could explain the relationship between overprotective parenting and social anxiety, meaning that overprotective parenting could lead to poor emotion management, which in turn leads to social anxiety.

The results showed that teenagers who felt their parents were overprotective were more likely to report higher levels of social anxiety. ​​​​The researchers also found that overprotective parenting was associated with greater emotional dysregulation and suppression, both of which were associated with higher levels of social anxiety. However, significant emotional integration was not found in this relationship.

“Overall, this study showed us that teenagers had more social anxiety if they felt their parents were overprotective. These findings suggest that it may be helpful for clinicians and practitioners to include parents when providing therapy to adolescents. This is because their parenting behaviors, such as their overprotective and emotional socialization behaviors, play a role in their offspring’s emotion regulation strategies.”

Interesting, felt mother overprotection was associated with more emotional suppression. In other words, the participants tended to hide or suppress their emotions more often when they felt their mother was overprotective. But this was not the case as perceived father overprotection.

“We were surprised to find that emotional suppression (a maladaptive emotion regulation strategy) in adolescents was only associated with mothers’ overprotection, and not fathers’ overprotection. This may show that there are gender-typed emotion socialization dynamics, but more research is needed to test this. In addition, it would be interesting to consider the perspectives of both parents and teenagers when addressing the impact of overprotective parenting.”

The study, “Overprotective parenting and social anxiety in adolescents: The role of emotion regulation“, written by Louise Mathijs, Bénédte Mouton, Grégoire Zimmermann, and Stijn Van Petegem.

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