What do childhood anxiety disorders predict?


  • Conflict of interest statement: No conflicts declared.

Antje Bittner, Department of Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, Universitätsklinikum Carl Gustav Carus, Technische Universität Dresden, Fetscherstr. 74, D-01307 Dresden Germany; Tel: +49 351 4583295; Fax: +49 351 4585713; Email: antje.bittner@uniklinikum-dresden.de


Background:  Few longitudinal studies of child and adolescent psychopathology have examined the links between specific childhood anxiety disorders and adolescent psychiatric disorder. In this paper we test the predictive specificity of separation anxiety disorder (SAD), overanxious disorder (OAD), generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), and social phobia.

Methods:  Data come from the Great Smoky Mountains Study (GSMS). A representative population sample of children – ages 9, 11, and 13 years at intake – was followed to age 19. Diagnoses of both childhood (before age 13 years) and adolescent psychiatric disorders (age 13 to 19 years) were available from 906 participants.

Results:  Childhood SAD predicted adolescent SAD, whereas OAD was associated with later OAD, panic attacks, depression and conduct disorder (CD). GAD was related only to CD. Social phobia in childhood was associated with adolescent OAD, social phobia, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Conclusions:  Anxiety disorders in childhood are predictors of a range of psychiatric disorders in adolescence. It appears that children meriting a well-defined diagnosis are missed by the current rules for the diagnosis of GAD. Future studies should examine whether OAD deserves reconsideration as a nosological entity.