Anxiety-Proneness, Anxiety Symptoms, and The Role of Parental Overprotection in Young South African Children

Megan Howard, Peter Muris, Helene Loxton*, Andrea Wege

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

5 Citations (Web of Science)


This study examined anxiety in preschool children within a South-African context. The parents and teachers of 101 South African children aged 2 to 6 years completed measures of children's anxiety-prone temperament (behavioral inhibition) and anxiety disorders symptoms. Parents and teachers of 59 children could be re-approached one year later, with the request to fill in both scales again, while parents at that time also completed a measure of parental overprotection. Results indicated that, compared with normative scores collected in Western countries, young South African children displayed relatively high levels of anxiety-proneness and anxiety disorders symptoms, although this cultural difference could only be demonstrated when using the parentreport data. Further, on both occasions there were substantial and positive correlations between children's behavioral inhibition and anxiety symptoms. Behavioral inhibition and anxiety symptoms, in particular when assessed by parent report, appeared to be fairly stable during the one-year period, and we found only tentative support for the idea that behavioral inhibition on time 1 increased the risk for anxiety symptoms on time 2. Finally, a cross-sectional analysis of the data collected on time 2 revealed a positive correlation between overprotection and children's anxiety symptoms as well as a marginally significant interaction of behavioral inhibition and overprotection on children's anxiety symptoms, indicating that in particular the combination of high behavioral inhibition and high overprotection tended to be associated with the highest anxiety levels.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)262-270
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Child and Family Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2017


  • Behavioral inhibition
  • Anxiety symptoms
  • Young children
  • South Africa

Cite this