Preventive Intervention for Anxious Preschoolers and Their Parents: Strengthening Early Emotional Development

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Abstract The high prevalence and early onset of anxiety disorders have inspired innovative prevention efforts targeting young at-risk children. With parent-child prevention models showing success for older children and adolescents the goal of this study was to evaluate a parent-child indicated preventive intervention for preschoolers with mild to moderate anxiety symptoms. Sixteen children (ages 3-5) and at least one of their parents participated in Strengthening Early Emotional Development (SEED) a new 10-week intervention with concurrent groups for parents and children. Outcome measures included clinician-rated and parent-rated assessments of anxiety symptoms as well as measures of emotion knowledge parent anxiety and parental attitudes about children's anxiety. Participation in SEED was associated with reduced child anxiety symptoms and improved emotion understanding skills. Parents reported decreases in their own anxiety along with attitudes reflecting enhanced confidence in their children's ability to cope with anxiety. Reductions in child and parent anxiety were maintained at 3-month follow-up. Findings suggest that a parent-child cognitive-behavioral preventive intervention may hold promise for young children with mild to moderate anxiety. Improvements in parent anxiety and parental attitudes may support the utility of intervening with parents. Fostering increased willingness to encourage their children to engage in new and anxiety-provoking situations may help promote continued mastery of new skills and successful coping with anxiety.



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