Parent Psychopathology and Children’s Psychological Health: Moderation by Sibling Relationship Dimensions

Courtney P. Keeton, Rebekah N. Teetsel, Nicole Marie S. Dull, Golda S. Ginsburg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Offspring of anxious adults are at heightened risk for psychological maladjustment; however factors that protect youth in the context of this risk have been rarely explored. Supported by literature showing the meaningful role of sibling relationships for children’s psychological outcomes, this study examined the protective role of the sibling relationship for children in the context of risk for psychological maladjustment due to having a parent with a clinical anxiety disorder. Participants were 81 children ages 7 to 12 years (58% female; 82 % Caucasian), and their parents. Parents met DSM-IV-TR diagnostic criteria for a primary anxiety disorder, and youth did not meet diagnostic criteria for any psychiatric disorder. Parents completed questionnaires on their own psychological distress and use of parenting behaviors, and on their children’s psychological adjustment. Children self-reported on the quality of their sibling relationship based on their closest-age sibling. Parenting behaviors were also coded based on a parent–child interaction task. Results of hierarchical regression models demonstrated that sibling relationship quality moderated the relation between parental psychological distress and child adjustment. Post-hoc simple slopes analyses showed that parental distress was significantly positively associated with greater child psychological problems only for children reporting low sibling companionship or high sibling conflict. Aspects of the sibling relationship did not moderate the association between self-rated or observer-rated parenting behaviors and child anxiety symptoms. Findings are consistent with developmental models and empirical literature emphasizing the protective role of sibling relationships for youth’s psychological outcomes. Sibling relationships may be a salient target for youth psychological preventive or treatment interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1333-1342
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Abnormal Child Psychology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Oct 10 2015


  • Anxiety
  • Child psychological adjustment
  • Parent psychopathology
  • Sibling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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