Genes influence the development of anxiety disorders, but the specific loci involved are not known. Genetic association studies of anxiety disorders are complicated by the complexity of the phenotypes and the difficulty in identifying appropriate candidate loci. We have begun to examine the genetics of behavioral inhibition to the unfamiliar (BI), a heritable temperamental predisposition that is a developmental and familial risk factor for panic and phobic disorders. Specific loci associated with homologous phenotypes in mouse models provide compelling candidate genes for human BI. We conducted family-based association analyses of BI using four genes derived from genetic studies of mouse models with features of behavioral inhibition. The sample included families of 72 children classified as inhibited by structured behavioral assessments. We observed modest evidence of association (P = 0.05) between BI and the glutamic acid decarboxylase gene (65 kDA isoform), which encodes an enzyme involved in GABA synthesis. No significant evidence of association was observed for the genes encoding the adenosine A1A receptor, the adenosine A2A receptor, or preproenkephalin. This study illustrates the potential utility of using candidate genes derived from mouse models to dissect the genetic basis of BI, a possible intermediate phenotype for panic and phobic disorders. © 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.