• Christina Saaby Jørgensen
  • Dina Lavdal Høgh
4. semester, Psykologi, Kandidat (Kandidatuddannelse)
More and more adults experience anxiety, and today anxiety is the most prevalent psychiatric disorders. Similar, there is also a tendency for more and more children and adolescents to experience anxiety than before. Additionally, an increasing amount of evidence imply that anxiety disorders aggregate in families, with both parents and children from the same families fighting with anxiety. One of the explanations for this tendency is the suggestion that anxiety can be transmitted from one generation to the next, which is a phenomenon called “the intergenerational transmission of anxiety”.
Based on what seems to be a simplified and linear understanding on how an anxiety disorder can be transmitted from parent to child, we found it necessary to nuance the understanding of this transmission of anxiety. The purpose is, to create more comprehensive reflections of how we can understand that an anxiety disorder seem to be able to be transmitted from one generation to the next. To create the best possible foundation for a more nuanced understanding of this phenomenon, this thesis is based on both an empirical and a theoretical framework. Therefore the nuance of this transmission of anxiety is examined through a review of existing research in the field as well as through contributions from a family systemic perspective.
Through a systematized review and a cross-cutting analysis of the included studies, it is examined which psychosocial factors that could be explanatory for the transmission of anxiety. As portrayed in a mapping, the present systematized review examines fourteen included studies, which all investigate possible psychosocial factors. Together this will form the empirical framework for this thesis.
To be able to investigate the transmission of anxiety, the thesis include five different theoretical perspectives of anxiety as well as an introduction to the developmental psychopathological model. This stand as the theoretical foundation for this thesis, as it is considered necessary to understand what anxiety is and how it develops, before being able to understand how it can be transmitted. Furthermore the family systemic perspective will contribute with a systemic and family orientated context to
understand the phenomenon in. In this thesis the family systemic perspective is formed on the basis of elements from systemic theory and the structural family theory.
Based on this papers analysis and discussion it can be concluded, that the intergenerational transmission of anxiety, cannot be understood as a linear transmission, as many different psychosocial factors contribute and affect differently depending of specific circumstances and conditions. Through this thesis, it becomes clear that both cognitive, behavioural and familial factors all proved to be explanatory for the transmission of anxiety. Overall, the result suggests that anxious parents seem to be more overinvolved with their child and that the parents’ relationship might suffer because of the anxiety in one parent. The psychosocial factors’ combined contribution seem to be, that it will give the child an understanding of the world as dangerous and unmanageable for the child, which makes the child vulnerable to the development of an anxiety disorder. Together with the family systemic perspective it can be concluded that this overinvolved parenting could be a sign of a dysfunctional family structure, which becomes apparent through unclear boundaries, an enmeshed relation and an alliance that threatens family hierarchy between the anxious parent and the child. This leads to a conclusion that it is the family's pursuit for homeostasis that ultimately will lead to the transmission of anxiety, which means, that the child’s anxiety can be understood as a product of the family system, rather than a result of a transmission from one anxious parent. Based on different methodological considerations, the thesis concludes with a recommendation for future research to further nuance the understanding of the intergenerational transmission of anxiety.
ID: 261532552