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Do parent and child behaviours differentiate families whose children have obsessive-compulsive disorder from other clinic and non-clinic families?

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Background: Limited research has been conducted investigating parent and child behaviour during family interactions in families who have a child with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). While a number of authors in the field of childhood OCD have suggested possible parent and child behaviours that are characteristic of these families, few studies have attempted to explore these in a methodologically sound approach. Method: This study compared the observed behaviours of parents and children in families whose children were diagnosed with OCD, to families whose children were diagnosed with other anxiety disorders, externalising disorders and no clinical problems. During family discussions, parent and child behaviours and affect were coded using a Likert-scale system. Family members were rated on behavioural dimensions of control, warmth, doubt, avoidance, confidence, positive problem solving, and rewarding independence. Results: Results indicated that parents and children in the OCD group could be clearly differentiated from families in the other groups based on parent and child behaviour. Mothers and fathers of OCD children were less confident in their child's ability, less rewarding of independence, and less likely to use positive problem solving. Children in the OCD group showed less positive problem solving, less confidence in their ability to solve the problem, and they displayed less warmth during their interactions with their parents. Conclusions: Parents and children in families where there is a child with OCD behave in a different manner during family interactions to other families. These findings offer interesting and important exploratory information relating to observed parent and child behaviour across different clinical and non-clinical groups. Limitations of this study are addressed and directions for further research are discussed.
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Keywords: Childhood obsessive-compulsive disorder; parent behaviour; parent–child interactions

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Griffith University, Australia

Publication date: July 1, 2002

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