The main aim of this thesis was to examine the different role of fathers and mothers in the development of anxiety in children,
viewed from an evolutionary perspective. In this dissertation, the focus was on two parental factors that have been associated
with anxiety in children: social referencing and parenting behavior. Different types of studies (literature review, experimental
design, quasi-experimental design, cross-sectional design, and meta-analysis) and measures (questionnaires, scripts, observations)
were used to assess the associations between child anxiety and maternal and paternal social referencing and parenting behavior
in different age groups: infants between 10-15 months (Chapter 4 and 5), children aged 0-5 years (Chapter 6), and children
aged 8-13 years (Chapter 3). In addition, we conducted a validation study of a newly developed questionnaire for the DSM-5
to measure symptoms of child anxiety in a dimensional way (Chapter 7).
In Chapter 2, a literature review was presented
on evolutionary based differences in paternal and maternal parenting behavior in Western societies and this was applied to
the intergenerational transmission of anxiety. The review discussed how the different specializations that men and women developed
during the course of human evolution evolved (i.e., social competition and risk taking for men, and care, nurturing, and intimate
bonding for women), and argued how these specializations are still reflected in their parenting behavior. The different role
of maternal and paternal social referencing signals in child anxiety was examined in Chapter 3 and 4.