Early Childhood Anxiety: How Can We Best Support Anxious Preschoolers and Their Caregivers?

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Penich, Charlene
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Anxiety disorders are the most prevalent psychopathology in early childhood. Up to 20% of the preschool age population suffers from a diagnosable anxiety condition and yet, only as many as 15% of these children will receive mental health support. Suffering from anxiety in early childhood is linked with an increased likelihood of persistent and recurring anxiety disorders throughout childhood and into adulthood. If left unsupported, these children are at increased risk for worsening mental health, substance abuse, poor social skill development, academic struggles and financial instability in adulthood. Recent research has focused on identifying the key risk factors for anxiety in early childhood. The literature reviewed for this paper outlined four main categories of risk: child, parent, parent-child and contextual. Within these categories, factors such as temperament traits, parent psychopathology, attachment and quality of the parent-child relationship, and adverse childhood events are identified as risks for developing anxiety disorders. Current literature also outlines a variety of intervention and prevention programs that have been developed to address early childhood anxiety and its risk factors. While many of these programs have proven successful in reducing preschool age anxiety, researchers identified the lack of parent engagement as a considerable threat to the effectiveness and widespread use of such programming. Helping parents to understand the signs and symptoms of an anxiety disorder, the risks associated with an anxiety diagnosis and the negative mental health trajectory that exists for individuals diagnosed with anxiety in early childhood are the most effective ways to motivate parents to participate in effective anxiety reducing programs.
anxiety , preschool , risk factors , intervention , prevention
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