Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy

Research Article

Parental Overprotection and Metacognitions as Predictors of Worry and Anxiety

Marcantonio M. Spadaa1 c1, Gabriele Casellia2, Chiara Manfredia3, Daniela Rebecchia4, Francesco Rovettoa5, Giovanni M. Ruggieroa6, Ana V. Nikčevića7 and Sandra Sassarolia8

a1 London South Bank University and North East London NHS Foundation Trust, UK

a2 London South Bank University UK and Cognitive Psychotherapy School, Modena, Italy

a3 Cognitive Psychotherapy School, Modena, Italy

a4 Servizio di Psicologia Clinica, AUSL and Cognitive Psychotherapy School, Modena, Italy

a5 University of Pavia, Italy

a6 Cognitive Psychotherapy School, Milano, Italy

a7 Kingston University, Kingston-upon-Thames, UK

a8 Cognitive Psychotherapy School, Milano, Italy


Background: Parental overprotection may have a direct effect on worry through hindering children's exploration experiences and preventing the learning of action-oriented coping strategies (Cheron, Ehrenreich and Pincus, 2009; Nolen-Hoeksema, Wolfson, Mumme and Guskin, 1995) and an indirect effect through fostering the development of maladaptive metacognitions that are associated with the activation of worry and the escalation of anxiety (Wells, 2000). Aim: The aim was to investigate the relative contribution of recalled parental overprotection in childhood and metacognitions in predicting current levels of worry. Method: A community sample (n = 301) was administered four self-report instruments to assess parental overprotection, metacognitions, anxiety and worry. Results: Metacognitions were found to predict levels of worry independently of gender, anxiety and parental overprotection. They were also found to predict anxiety independently of gender, worry and parental overprotection. Conclusions: The combination of a family environment perceived to be characterized by overprotection and high levels of maladaptive metacognitions are a risk factor for the development of worry.

(Online publication June 06 2011)


c1 Reprint requests to Marcantonio M. Spada, Department of Mental Health and Learning Disabilities, Faculty of Health and Social Care, London South Bank University, London Road, London SE1 6LN, UK. E-mail: