Associations between family factors, childhood adversity, negative life events and child anxiety disorders: an exploratory study of diagnostic specificity.
Draisey J., Halldorsson B., Cooper P., Creswell C.
BACKGROUND: Chronic childhood adversity, negative life events, and anxiogenic parenting behaviours have all been implicated in the development and maintenance of childhood anxiety disorders. However, few studies have addressed whether these factors are associated with particular types of childhood anxiety disorders. AIMS: The aims of this study were to investigate whether specific associations were obtained between specific types of childhood anxiety disorder - namely, social anxiety disorder (SOC), separation anxiety disorder (SEP) and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) - and the nature of particular forms of psycho-social risk - namely, chronic childhood adversity, negative life events, and particular forms of parenting behaviours. METHOD: Two-hundred and ten children (aged 7-12 years) who met diagnostic criteria for SOC, SEP or GAD and their primary caregivers completed questionnaire measures on chronic childhood adversity and negative life events. In addition, dyads participated in two laboratory-based assessments of parent-child interactions. RESULTS: We found little evidence for disorder specificity for chronic childhood adversity and negative life events, except in the case of separation anxiety disorder. Anxious children with separation anxiety were more likely than children with other forms of anxiety disorders to live with a single parent, experience more frequent parent arguments, and more negative life events. No group differences in observed parenting behaviours were found. CONCLUSIONS: Childhood SEP may be particularly associated with family challenges which may need specific consideration to optimize prevention and/or treatment. Beyond this, there is limited evidence of specific associations between family and environmental factors and specific types of childhood anxiety disorders.