A mother’s criticism of her child with obsessive-compulsive disorder may negatively impact that child’s treatment outcome, according to researchers.
In a recent study from Case Western Reserve University, researchers also found that mothers tend to be more critical of children with the anxiety disorder than they are of unaffected siblings.
Sixty-two mother–child dyads were included in the study; all children in the study were diagnosed with primary obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Researchers asked mothers to complete 5-minute speech samples about their children with OCD, and about an unaffected sibling. The samples asked mothers to assess their relationship with their children. Similar 2-minute samples were assigned to children with OCD, asking them to speak about their parents.
Researchers found that mothers were less critical of a child unaffected by OCD. Also, those children who were highly critical of their fathers had more severe OCD. There was no difference in OCD severity between children who were highly critical of their mothers and those who were not. Data indicated “worse post-treatment OCD-related functioning and severity” for children with highly critical mothers.
Amy Przeworski, PhD, one of the researchers of the study, told Healio.com that mothers did not report much “emotional overinvolvement” when describing their relationship with their children who have OCD. “This was surprising because when a child has OCD, family members are often involved in the child’s rituals. So we expected that we might see a lot of overinvolvement and self-sacrificing in this population,” she said.
In a press release, Przeworski said a parent’s criticism of their child may be a reaction to their child’s anxiety.
“This research is not blaming the parent for the child’s OCD. But it does suggest that the relationship between parents and children with OCD is important and should be a focus of treatment. This means that parents can help children with OCD to get better,” Przeworski said.
Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.