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Worrying times for adolescents

Although worrying is a normal response to an anticipated threat, excessive worry can be problematic. A new article in the British Journal of Health Psychology analyses the development of worry throughout childhood.

The authors used data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), a longitudinal population-based cohort study that enrolled pregnant women in 1991 and 1992. Mothers completed self-report questionnaires on their child's development and health at regular intervals, including on their child's level of worry and the impact on daily functioning at age 7, 10, and 13.

All reported analyses were conducted on the sample of mothers who completed the questionnaire at all three ages (N = 2,227), and the authors took the mothers’ own anxiety levels into account. Mothers reported a peak of worrisome thoughts in their children at age 10. Emotional disruption was highest at 10, and the highest level of interference in daily life was observed at 13, especially for girls. Advanced pubertal status and worry frequency were positively associated for boys at 10 and girls at 13. Advanced puberty at 10 was also associated with overall higher worry frequency and emotional disruption.

The authors conclude that their findings align with existing research on patterns of childhood depression, but note that the generalisability and validity of the results might be restricted by the sole reliance on mothers’ reports of child worry.

Source: The Development of Worry Throughout Childhood: Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children Data (2015), British Journal of Health Psychology.

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