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The present study investigated the possibility that sons and daughters are differentially responsive to the effects of maternal versus paternal support on anxiety. Previous research suggests that parental support reduces a child's susceptibility to developing anxiety outcomes, and that, generally, differences exist among parent-child dyads (father-daughter; mother-daughter; father-son; and mother-son) such that both sons and daughters prefer mothers, but sons also look to fathers for support. However, it is unclear whether maternal and paternal support is differentially associated with offspring adjustment. Based on previous findings regarding differences in sons' and daughters' preferences for maternal versus paternal social support, it was hypothesized that maternal support would be negatively associated with offspring anxiety, regardless of offspring sex, and that paternal support would be more strongly negatively associated with anxiety for male than for female offspring. Data from 216 college students who completed the Inventory of Parent and Peer Attachment and the Penn State Worry Questionnaire were analyzed. Moderating effects of participant sex on the association between parental support and anxiety levels were examined using path analysis. Results revealed an interaction of participant sex with paternal support, but not with maternal support. Specifically, a significant negative association between paternal communication and anxiety outcomes was found for males (Beta = -0.37, p < .0001), but not females (Beta = -0.03, p = .82). In contrast, a significant positive association was found between maternal communication and anxiety outcomes, regardless of participant sex (males, Beta = 0.23, p = 0.01; females, Beta = 0.24, p = 0.008). The current findings suggest that male and female offspring may vary in their responsiveness to paternal versus maternal support. However, longitudinal research is needed to determine the directionality of the association between parental support and offspring anxiety.

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Graduate Research

Primary Advisor

Jackson A. Goodnight

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Stander Symposium poster

Parental Support and Anxiety among College Students: Differences by Sex-Specific Dyads