Strongest Families – Anxiety
Anxiety is the most common mental health problem in children and is seen in at least 8% of children across the age range. Anxiety tracks from preschool to adolescence and adulthood. Anxiety problems are often accompanied by difficulties in establishing friendships, school performance and family functioning. Children with anxiety problems are more prone to have problems with anxiety and depression during later life.
Cognitive behavioral treatments for child anxiety that are based on the development of skills and reduction of avoidance have been demonstrated to be effective in multiple well designed randomized trials and confirmed in meta analyses. Interventions with children before age 7 or 8 years have the advantage of conserving the developmental trajectory of social and academic learning. Moreover, earlier intervention can be mediated by parents rather than by health professionals. Parent mediated interventions appear to be as robust as professionally mediated interventions.
Although effective treatments are available, only a small proportion of children with anxiety receive services because of access barriers. These barriers include limited availability of treatment services, incidental costs of accessing care (e.g. transportation, time off work) that is available and stigma that leads parents to avoid the mental health system. Early intervention for anxiety in young children using cost-effective methods would reduce the impact of anxiety in childhood and in later life.
This project will develop and conduct preliminary testing of a cost-effective, public health oriented, Internet-based program to help parents of anxious children to help their own child. The program will be designed so that, if successful, it could be scaled for widespread use at low cost. Our team includes specialists in children’s anxiety, development of Internet-based services, and development of distance programs for parents. The program developed in this project will be tested in a future large scale randomized trial.