Where there's risk there is often reward
Encouraging risk-taking in our children may reduce childhood anxiety. By gently encouraging children to push their limits, parents could be helping to reduce their child’s risk of developing an anxiety disorder.
It may come as a surprise that around seven percent of Australian kids between the age of 4 and 17 have an anxiety disorder.
Certainly not an insignificant number.
So then, how does one tackle such a big issue?
One way is to encourage risk taking.
A recent international study suggests that parents who employ Challenging Parent Behavioural methods – or CPB as it’s known – are likely protecting their children from developing anxiety.
So what exactly is CPB?
CPB is essentially active physical and verbal behaviours that gently encourages children to push their limits. We’re talking about behaviours such as engaging in ‘rough’ and tumble play, challenging activities such as rope climbing or even just letting them lose a game. It also includes encouraging them to practise social assertion and confidently go out of their comfort zone.
Researchers from Macquarie University’s Centre for Emotional Health recently partnered with the University of Reading and the University of Amsterdam to survey 312 families with preschool-aged children across the Netherlands and Australia.
This study aimed to build upon existing research that establishes a relationship between ‘over-parenting’ and the development of childhood anxiety disorders.
And the results were telling.
The parents who scored higher in their CPB methods – those who encouraged their kids to push their limits to a greater extent - had children who were less at risk of exhibiting anxiety disorder symptoms. This unequivocally demonstrated that CPB was related to significantly less anxiety in children.
Professor Jennie Hudson, Director of Centre for Emotional Health at Macquarie University and co-author of the study, believes we need to learn more about how we can help families and reduce the seven percent.
“While previous research has shown that encouraging risk taking behaviours helps cognitive, social and emotional development,” says Rebecca Lazarus, “our study shows that this method of parenting may also help reduce the risk of children developing an anxiety disorder.”
The Macquarie study assessed parents’ CPB via a questionnaire investigating how much the parents encouraged the exhibition of risky behaviour in their children.
The results are promising in raising the clinical relevance of CPB methods, which could potentially be used to aid parents in helping their children’s wellbeing.
“While this isn’t a cure for anxiety, and we cannot at this stage determine causality, the results are promising in terms of parent education.” says Professor Hudson. ”By gently encouraging their kids to push their limits, parents could be helping to reduce their child’s risk of developing an anxiety disorder, which is a great insight.”
Rebecca Lazarus (PhD candidate and main author).
Professor Jennie Hudson, Director of Centre for Emotional Health at Macquarie University.