Background and objectives: Family factors, such as family accommodation and parent-child characteristics, are hypothesised as important maintaining factors in paediatric OCD. There is limited research assessing parent and child behaviour amongst young people with OCD during family interactions. Thus, the current study sought to further explore parent-child interaction variables in OCD, using an observational design with three groups.
Methods: 23 young people with OCD, 30 young people with other anxiety disorders, and 23 young people with no clinical problems, along with their primary caregiver, completed a brief problem-solving discussion task designed to assess family interaction variables. Groups were compared on observer-rated and self-rated parent and child behaviours. It was expected that OCD families would differ from both anxious and nonclinical families on some behavioural dimensions, for example, rating lower on warmth, confidence, and positive problem solving.
Results: Results showed that young people in the OCD group could be differentiated from young people in the clinical and nonclinical comparison groups based on observed behaviour. Young people in the OCD group showed less warmth during their interactions and less confidence in their ability to solve the problem. These children and adolescents also had higher levels of doubt and withdrawal during interactions with their parent. Interestingly, parent behaviour did not differ between the groups, suggesting that parent behaviours are a less reliable indicator of OCD symptomatology.
Conclusions: During family interactions, young people with OCD behave in a different way to young people with another anxiety disorder as well as young people with no diagnosis. These findings provide interesting and important exploratory information relating to observed parent and child behaviour across different clinical and nonclinical groups. Limitations of this study are addressed and directions for future research are discussed.