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Keywords:

  • Williams syndrome;
  • anxiety;
  • intellectual disability;
  • developmental trajectory;
  • executive function

Abstract

The longitudinal course of anxiety disorders in 45 children and adolescents with Williams syndrome (WS) was examined. Children were ages 4–13 years at the initial assessment. To assess their child's DSM-IV diagnoses, parents completed a structured diagnostic interview 3–9 times at intervals of at least 1 year. At the first assessment, 60% of the sample presented with at least one anxiety diagnosis; 82.2% received an anxiety diagnosis at some time during the study. Chronic, persistent anxiety within the period 5 years after their initial diagnosis was shown by 62.2% of those with an anxiety diagnosis (51.1% of the entire sample). The most common diagnoses were specific phobias and generalized anxiety disorder. Multilevel logistic regression models were estimated for the presence of any anxiety disorder, specific phobia, and specific phobia of loud noises. Developmental trajectories, expressed as the probability of a positive diagnosis, suggested that the odds of a positive diagnosis did not change with age. IQ was not significantly related to the presence of an anxiety disorder. However, there was a significant relation between executive functioning and anxiety such that the presence of an anxiety diagnosis was associated with increased scores on behavioral regulation, indicative of increased difficulty with inhibitory control of affect and behavior. These findings are discussed in terms of persistence of anxiety over time and the need to develop and test interventions to address the high levels of anxiety experienced by children and adolescents with WS. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.