Skip to main content Accessibility help

Parental Overprotection and Metacognitions as Predictors of Worry and Anxiety

  • Marcantonio M. Spada (a1), Gabriele Caselli (a2), Chiara Manfredi (a3), Daniela Rebecchi (a4), Francesco Rovetto (a5), Giovanni M. Ruggiero (a6), Ana V. Nikčević (a7) and Sandra Sassaroli (a6)...


Background: Parental overprotection may have a direct effect on worry through hindering children's exploration experiences and preventing the learning of action-oriented coping strategies (Cheron, Ehrenreich and Pincus, 2009; Nolen-Hoeksema, Wolfson, Mumme and Guskin, 1995) and an indirect effect through fostering the development of maladaptive metacognitions that are associated with the activation of worry and the escalation of anxiety (Wells, 2000). Aim: The aim was to investigate the relative contribution of recalled parental overprotection in childhood and metacognitions in predicting current levels of worry. Method: A community sample (n = 301) was administered four self-report instruments to assess parental overprotection, metacognitions, anxiety and worry. Results: Metacognitions were found to predict levels of worry independently of gender, anxiety and parental overprotection. They were also found to predict anxiety independently of gender, worry and parental overprotection. Conclusions: The combination of a family environment perceived to be characterized by overprotection and high levels of maladaptive metacognitions are a risk factor for the development of worry.


Corresponding author

Reprint requests to Marcantonio M. Spada, Department of Mental Health and Learning Disabilities, Faculty of Health and Social Care, London South Bank University, London Road, London SE1 6LN, UK. E-mail:


Hide All
American Psychiatric Association (2000). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Washington, DC: APA.
Beck, A. T., Epstein, N., Brown, G. and Steer, R. A. (1988). An inventory for measuring clinical anxiety: psychometric properties. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 56, 893897.
Borkovec, T. D. (1994). The nature, functions and origins of worry. In Davey, G. C. L. and Tallis, F. (Eds.), Worrying: perspectives on theory, assessment and treatment. New York: Wiley.
Borkovec, T. D., Robinson, E., Pruzinsky, T. and DePee, J. A. (1983). Preliminary exploration on worry: some characteristics and processes. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 21, 916.
Borkovec, T. D., Ray, W. J. and Stöber, J. (1998). Worry: a cognitive phenomenon intimately linked to affective, physiological, and interpersonal behavioral processes. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 22, 561576.
Brewin, C. R., Andrews, B. and Gotlib, I. H. (1993). Psychopathology and early experience: a reappraisal of retrospective reports. Psychological Bulletin, 113, 8298.
Brown, T. A., Antony, M. M. and Barlow, D. (1993). Psychometric properties of the Penn State Worry Questionnaire in a clinical anxiety disorders sample. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 30, 3337.
Cartwright-Hatton, S. and Wells, A. (1997). Beliefs about worry and intrusions: the metacognitions questionnaire and its correlates. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 11, 279315.
Cartwright-Hatton, S., Mather, A., Illingworth, V., Brocki, J., Harrington, R. and Wells, A. (2004). Development and preliminary validation of the Meta-cognitions Questionnaire—Adolescent version. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 18, 411422.
Cheron, D. M., Ehrenreich, J. T. and Pincus, D. B. (2009). Assessment of parental experiential avoidance in a clinical sample of children with anxiety disorder. Child Psychiatry and Human Development, 40, 383403.
Chorpita, B. F. and Barlow, D. H. (1998). The development of anxiety: the role of control in early environment. Psychological Bulletin, 124, 321.
Cohen, J. (1988). Statistical Power Analysis for the Behavioral Sciences (2nd edn). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Fresco, D. M., Mennin, D. S., Heimberg, R. G. and Turk, C. (2003). Using the Penn State Worry Questionnaire to identify individuals with generalized anxiety disorder: a receiver operating characteristic analysis. Journal of Behaviour Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 34, 283291.
Gallagher, B. and Cartwright-Hatton, S. (2008). The relationship between parenting factors and trait anxiety: mediating role of cognitive errors and metacognition. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 22, 722733.
Gerlsma, C., Emmelkamp, P. M. and Arrindell, W. A. (1990). Anxiety, depression and perception of early parenting: a meta-analysis. Clinical Psychology Review, 10, 251277.
Grüner, K., Muris, P. and Merckelbach, H. (1999). The relationship between anxious rearing behaviours and anxiety disorders symptomatology in normal children. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 30, 2735.
Manfredi, C., Caselli, G., Rebecchi, D., Rovetto, F., Ruggiero, G. M., Sassaroli, S. and Spada, M. M. (2011). Temperament and parental styles as predictors of ruminative brooding and worry. Personality and Individual Differences, 50, 186191.
Messer, S. C. and Beidel, D. C. (1994). Psychosocial correlates of childhood anxiety disorders. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 33, 975983.
Meyer, T. J., Miller, M. L., Metzger, R. L. and Borkovec, T. D. (1990). Development and validation of the Penn State Worry Questionnaire. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 28, 487495.
Molina, S. and Borkovec, T. D. (1994). The Penn State Worry Questionnaire: psychometric properties and associated characteristics. In Davey, G. C. L. and Tallis, F. (Eds.), Worrying: perspectives on theory, assessment, and treatment (pp. 265283). New York: Wiley.
Muris, P. (2002). Parental rearing behaviors and worry of normal adolescents. Psychological Reports, 91, 428430.
Muris, P. and Merckelbach, H. (1998). Perceived parental rearing behaviour and anxiety disorders symptoms in normal children. Personality and Individual Differences, 25, 11991206.
Nolen-Hoeksema, S., Wolfson, A., Mumme, G. and Guskin, K. (1995). Helplessness in children of depressed and nondepressed mothers. Developmental Psychology, 31, 377387.
Overbeek, G., Ten Have, M., Vollebergh, W. and De Graaf, R. (2007). Parental lack of care and overprotection: longitudinal associations with DSM-III R disorders. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 42, 8793.
Parker, G., Barrett, E. A. and Hickie, I. A. (1992). From nurture to network: examining links between perceptions of parenting received in childhood and social bonds in adulthood. American Journal of Psychiatry, 149, 877885.
Parker, G., Tupling, H. and Brown, L. (1979). Parental Bonding Instrument. British Journal of Medical Psychology, 52, 110.
Rankin, P., Bentall, R., Hill, J. and Kinderman, P. (2005). Perceived relationships with parents and paranoid delusions: comparisons of current ill, remitted and normal participants. Psychopathology, 38, 1625.
Silverman, W. K., Cerny, J. A. and Nelles, W. B. (1988). The familial influence in anxiety disorders: studies on the offspring of patients with anxiety disorders. In Lahey, B. and Kazdin, A. (Eds.), Advances in Clinical Child Psychology (Vol. 11, pp. 223248). New York: Plenum Press.
Spada, M. M., Mohiyeddini, C. and Wells, A. (2008). Measuring metacognitions associated with emotional distress: factor structure and predictive validity of the Metacognitions Questionnaire 30. Personality and Individual Differences, 45, 238242.
Spada, M. M., Nikčević, A. V., Moneta, G. B. and Wells, A. (2008). Metacognition, perceived stress, and negative emotion. Personality and Individual Differences, 44, 11721181.
Spasojevic, J. and Alloy, L. B. (2002). Who becomes a depressive ruminator? Developmental antecedents of ruminative response style. Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy: An International Quarterly, 16, 405419.
Wells, A. (1995). Worry and the incubation of intrusive images following stress. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 33, 579583.
Wells, A. (2000). Emotional Disorders and Metacognition: innovative cognitive therapy. Chichester: Wiley.
Wells, A. (2009). Metacognitive Therapy for Anxiety and Depression. New York: Guilford Press.
Wells, A. and Cartwright-Hatton, S. (2004). A short form of the metacognitions questionnaire: properties of the MCQ-30. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 42, 385396.
Wells, A. and Papageorgiou, C. (1998). Relationships between worry and obsessive-compulsive symptoms and meta-cognitive beliefs. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 36, 899913.


Related content

Powered by UNSILO

Parental Overprotection and Metacognitions as Predictors of Worry and Anxiety

  • Marcantonio M. Spada (a1), Gabriele Caselli (a2), Chiara Manfredi (a3), Daniela Rebecchi (a4), Francesco Rovetto (a5), Giovanni M. Ruggiero (a6), Ana V. Nikčević (a7) and Sandra Sassaroli (a6)...


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.

Parental Overprotection and Metacognitions as Predictors of Worry and Anxiety

  • Marcantonio M. Spada (a1), Gabriele Caselli (a2), Chiara Manfredi (a3), Daniela Rebecchi (a4), Francesco Rovetto (a5), Giovanni M. Ruggiero (a6), Ana V. Nikčević (a7) and Sandra Sassaroli (a6)...
Submit a response


No Comments have been published for this article.


Reply to: Submit a response

Your details

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *