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BACKGROUND: Social anxiety disorder (SAD) aggregates in families. To elucidate intergenerational transmission of risk, we examined whether childhood SAD and symptoms of anxiety were prospectively predicted by stable infant temperamental inhibition, maternal SAD, maternal generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and maternal parenting behaviours. METHODS: We conducted a longitudinal study beginning prenatally with follow-up at 4, 10, 14 and 58 months postnatally. Mothers were assessed for anxiety disorders prenatally and assigned to one of three groups: SAD (n = 67), GAD (n = 56) and nonanxious controls (n = 94). We assessed infant temperamental inhibition at 4 and 14 months, maternal parenting behaviours at 10 and 58 months, and child anxiety disorders and symptoms at 58 months. RESULTS: Child SAD at 58 months was predicted by prenatal maternal SAD (OR = 23.76, 95% CI = 1.15-60.37), but not by prenatal maternal GAD (OR = 7.44, 95% CI = 0.32-124.49), stable temperamental inhibition or maternal behaviours. Child anxiety symptoms at 58 months were predicted specifically by maternal SAD (but not GAD), and also by concurrent maternal intrusiveness. Stable temperamental inhibition moderated the association between 10-month maternal encouragement and 58-month child anxiety symptoms. CONCLUSIONS: We found evidence for specificity of risk for child SAD and anxiety symptoms from maternal SAD compared to maternal GAD. Childhood anxiety symptoms were also predicted by an interaction between a lack of maternal encouragement in infancy and stable temperamental inhibition, as well as concurrent maternal intrusiveness. The findings have clinical implications for targeted prevention of child anxiety.

Original publication




Journal article


J Child Psychol Psychiatry

Publication Date





779 - 788


Anxiety, high-risk studies, prevention, temperament