• cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT);
  • young children;
  • anxiety disorders;
  • group therapy


Background: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has demonstrated benefits for anxious school-aged children and adolescents; however, treatment programs have not been developed to teach CBT strategies to children under the age of eight. This pilot study examined a novel treatment program for children aged 5–7 years with anxiety disorders. Methods: Thirty-two children (19 females) aged 5–7 years (mean age=6.51 years) with DSM-IV anxiety disorders and their families completed a 12-week, manualized CBT group program. Parent and child groups (5–8 children per group) were held separately but concurrently. Multiple measures of anxiety (Screen for Child Anxiety Related Emotional Disorders, Anxiety Disorders Interview Schedule for DSM-IV—Parent Version, and clinician Children's Global Assessment Scale ratings) were completed pre and post each treatment series. A subset of participants (n=11; 8 females; mean age=6.34 years) completed an initial assessment followed by a wait period of approximately 3.5 months (range 2.5–5 months) with a second assessment just before treatment start. No treatment was received during this wait time. Results: With treatment, 43.8% of children no longer met criteria for any Axis 1 anxiety disorders whereas 71.9% had at least one anxiety disorder resolve. A series of paired, two-tailed t-tests revealed significant reduction in anxiety symptoms on standardized measures. Children who waited for treatment showed no significant change in anxiety symptoms during nontreatment but demonstrated improvement after program attendance. Conclusions: This pilot study suggests that CBT can be used effectively to treat anxious children as young as 5 years of age. Further research is warranted. Depression and Anxiety, 2009. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.