For the study, Golda Ginsburg, Ph.D., a professor of psychiatry at the University of Connecticut Health Center, and colleagues randomly assigned 136 families to either the eight-week Coping and Promoting Strength program or a control condition using an informational pamphlet. All participating families had at least one parent who met DSM-IV-TR criteria for an anxiety disorder and one child aged 6 to 13 without an anxiety disorder.
As part of the intervention program, each family met individually with a trained therapist for 60 minutes a week for eight weeks. The families were taught how to identify the signs of anxiety and how to reduce anxiety, problem solving, parenting strategies, and more. Participants in the information-monitoring group received a 36-page pamphlet containing information about anxiety disorders and associated treatments. Anxiety was assessed before the trial began, at the end of the intervention (or eight weeks after randomization), and at follow-ups six and 12 months later.
Children in the intervention group had lower symptom scores after finishing the program. Just three children (5%) in the intervention group met criteria for an anxiety disorder by the end of the 12-month follow-up period compared with 19 children (31%) in the information-monitoring group. At the one-year follow-up, youth in the control group also had higher anxiety symptoms ratings than those in the intervention group.
“[A]mong youth who received the intervention, those with high baseline anxiety symptom severity levels showed greater reductions in severity than those with low baseline levels, which suggests that the intervention is particularly helpful for youth with elevated anxiety symptoms,” the study authors wrote.
While the study authors noted that the work needs to be replicated in a larger and more demographically diverse cohort, it may represent a step forward in efforts to reduce the number of children and adolescents with anxiety disorders.
“Prevention is always better than providing intervention after a disorder has been identified,” child psychiatrist Paramjit Joshi, M.D., division chief of psychiatry and behavioral medicine at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., told Psychiatric News. “In that sense I think this is an important study and has clinical applicability.”
For related information, see the Psychiatric News article “Transmission of Anxious Behaviors to Offspring Has More to Do With Environment Than Genes.”
Human Rights Expert to Be Keynote Speaker at APA’s Meeting in NYC
Adeyinka M. Akinsulure-Smith, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist from Sierra Leone who has participated in human rights investigations in Sierra Leone, worked with war victims from the African diaspora and survivors of torture, and served as an expert on gender crimes and posttraumatic stress disorder in a case before the International Criminal Court. She will discuss her work and experiences on Thursday, October 8, at IPS:The Mental Health Services Conference, which is being held at the Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel. Learn more about the meeting and register now.
(Top image: hartphotography/Shutterstock)