The Impact of Educator Anxiety and Anxiety Literacy on Primary Educators’ Responses to Anxious Children

Jessica A. Byrne, Laura H. Clark*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Background: Parental anxiety and over-involved parenting behaviour are consistently associated with an increase in child anxiety symptoms. Primary school aged children also often develop a strong and influential relationship with their class teacher and how educators respond to anxiety therefore warrants investigation. Preliminary research has shown that educators use anxiety-promoting techniques, such as avoidance. However, there has been little empirical investigation of the factors that influence the management of anxious children by primary school educators in the classroom setting. 

Objective: This study investigated the relationship between the anxiety literacy of primary school educators, anxiety symptoms experienced by primary school educators and the management of anxious children by primary school educators. 

Methods: A total of 73 primary school educators in the United Kingdom completed an online survey. The survey measured participant anxiety and anxiety knowledge, as well as utilising vignettes of hypothetical scenarios to measure the use of anxiety-promoting and autonomy-promoting responses. Results: Educator anxiety literacy predicted a reduced likelihood of using anxiety-promoting responses but did not predict increased use of autonomy-promoting responses. Educators’ anxiety was not found to predict anxiety-promoting or autonomy-promoting responses when managing anxious children. 

Conclusions: The findings suggest that promoting anxiety literacy in primary educators may reduce the frequency with which educators use anxiety promoting responses with anxious students. The findings highlight the importance of further clarifying the quality and forms of anxiety mental health knowledge and training which educators receive. This type of data may be useful in developing ways to equip educators with the skills to respond and manage anxiety in the classroom.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)757-777
Number of pages21
JournalChild and Youth Care Forum
Issue number3
Early online date30 Sept 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2024

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