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theconversation com Addressing childhood anxiety as early as kindergarten
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Caroline Reid-Westoby, Magdalena Janus
Addressing childhood anxiety as early as kindergarten
could reduce its harmful impacts
theconversation.com/addressing-childhood-anxiety-as-early-as-kindergarten-could-reduce-its-harmful-impacts-
180644
Anxiety disorders are some of the most common mental disorders in children and youth.
They emerge and can be diagnosed as early as preschool age, with half being diagnosed by
the age of six.
Anxiety in early childhood has consistently been associated with symptoms of anxiety
throughout childhood, adolescence and adulthood, and with a lower quality of life.
We are researchers with the Offord Centre for Child Studies in the department of
psychiatry and behavioural neurosciences at McMaster University. With colleagues, we
undertook a population-wide study of kindergarten-age children attending public schools
across Canada between 2004 and 2015. To our knowledge, this study provided the first
Canada-wide snapshot of anxiety symptoms among children as they enter school.
Our results demonstrate that a child showing signs of anxiety in kindergarten should not
be ignored. Children with elevated symptoms of anxiety are three to six times more likely
to be vulnerable in other areas of their development than those with very few of these
symptoms.
This study also provides an estimate of the prevalence of anxiety symptoms among
kindergarten-aged children in Canada. These could, in future, serve as a baseline for
comparing groups of children after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Adverse effects on development
Anxiety can have adverse effects on child development, even if a child’s anxiety levels fall
below what clinicians would consider an anxiety disorder. Experiencing anxiety
symptoms can also interfere with children’s functioning, for example, if children avoid
situations that make them feel anxious.
With rates of anxiety increasing in children and youth since 2020, early identification and
intervention are important to decrease long-term impacts.
Information about the prevalence of anxiety disorders in young children is quite limited
compared to what’s known about older children. There is also limited evidence about how
symptoms of anxiety in young children may be related to aspects of their development
that are important for succeeding in school.

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