Are parents to blame for making their children anxious?

This week in the Guardian's Health and Wellbeing section Luisa Dillner examines the issue over whether parenting styles make a difference to anxiety levels in children.

Anxiety is known to affect up to 30 per cent of the population and starts on average at the age of 11. To explore parental influence on anxiety in children further Dillner evaluates the findings of a study in the American Journal of Psychiatry this month which compared levels of anxiety in families of identical twins with those of non-identical twins.

The study was designed to find out how much genetic factors cause anxiety compared with non-genetic ones and parents were asked to report their own anxiety levels using a personality questionnaire.

Overall the study showed that genetic factors were not the main driver for the children of anxious parents becoming anxious themselves but there was some evidence of non-genetic influences.

"It may seem incredibly obvious that anxious parents make their children fearful," says Dillner. "Scream if you see a spider and it's likely your child will too. So should we be more careful not to make our children feel that the world is unsafe?".

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