Single-Session Computer-Delivered Intervention for Parental Accommodation and Overcontrolling Behaviors: A Pilot Study

Date

2021-05

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Abstract

Background: Despite repeated calls regarding the need to target parental accommodation and overcontrol in child anxiety treatment, brief protocols specifically targeting these behaviors in parents of clinically anxious youth are nonexistent. The present investigation piloted and refined a theoretically informed and brief internet-delivered single-session intervention (SSI) specifically aimed at reducing parental accommodation and overcontrolling behaviors (i.e., Helping with Anxiety Program for Parents of Youth [HAPPY]). Method: A total of 12 socioeconomically and racially diverse mothers of clinically anxious children (Mage =10.08 years, SD = 1.74, range = 7–14 years) were recruited in two phases. In Phase One, three online focus groups with two mothers each (n = 6) received the intervention and provided qualitative and quantitative feedback on the feasibility and acceptability of the HAPPY program. Parental feedback from the focus groups was used to revise the HAPPY program. In Phase Two, the revised HAPPY program was administered online to six new mothers to examine the program’s acceptability and scientific promise for increasing psychoeducational knowledge regarding anxiety, parental accommodation, and overcontrolling behaviors. Results: In Phase One, all mothers rated the intervention highly in terms of relevance, acceptability, and feasibility, and endorsed recommending the program to another parent. The HAPPY Program was revised and re-administered at Phase Two, where it was again rated very favorably by mothers. Mothers who completed the revised HAPPY program demonstrated increased knowledge of parental accommodation and child anxiety from pre- to post-intervention, particularly in the areas of accommodation at bedtime and planned ignoring. Conclusion: The HAPPY Program was found to be feasible and well-received by mothers in this uncontrolled pilot trial. Increased parental knowledge of the role of accommodation and overcontrol in child anxiety was observed following the intervention. Qualitative data indicated that mothers benefited from the unique online format as well as the content, such as normalizing feelings of guilt when encouraging children to face fears. The HAPPY Program provides a novel, accessible, and time-efficient option for targeting problematic parenting behaviors among mothers of anxious children. Future work should evaluate efficacy of the HAPPY Program in a randomized control trial.

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Keywords

Single-Session intervention, Parenting

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