Shyness and fear are not unusual traits for children. When young children begin to experience new situations and new people, they often exhibit hesitation. As they age, some of these children may continue to be apprehensive in unfamiliar environments, while others may comfortably assimilate themselves to their surroundings. Children who cannot overcome their fear and shyness tend to manifest symptoms of anxiety as they age. Research has shown that these early behaviors patterns of shyness and anxiety can predict depression. Although there are numerous factors that can contribute to the development of depressive symptoms, insecure parent-child attachment has been shown to be one factor that increases the risk for depression in children with anxiety. However, understanding how secure and positive parent-child attachments affect this risk has been less explored.
To address this gap, Ida Skytte Jakobsen of the Department of Political Science at the University of Southern Denmark recently led a study that looked at how secure parent-child attachment in adolescence influenced the risk for later depression in adults with a history of childhood anxiety. Using data from a longitudinal study, Jakobsen analyzed information gathered from 948 individuals. She assessed levels of anxiety and withdrawal in preadolescence, attachment levels at age 15, and subsequent anxiety or depression in early to mid-adulthood. Jakobsen discovered that consistent with existing research, early evidence of anxiety predicted an elevated risk for anxiety or depression in later life. However, that risk decreased by 50% for the children who had secure parent-child attachments at age 15.
These results clearly demonstrate the positive effects of secure parent-child attachments for children who are at risk for later internalizing problems. Although the attachment did not eliminate the risk for later psychological issues, for those most at risk for later problems as a result of high levels of early childhood anxiety, the decrease in vulnerability was significant. Specifically, the highly anxious children with insecure attachments at age 15 had a 29% chance of depression or anxiety in later life compared to a 19% chance found in those teens with secure parent-child attachments. Jakobsen added, “The clinical implications of these ﬁndings are that interventions which increase parent-child attachment may play a useful role in developing programs for children with early anxiety/withdrawal.”
Jakobsen, I., Horwood, L. J., Fergusson, D. M. (2012). Childhood anxiety/withdrawal, adolescent parent-child attachment and later risk of depression and anxiety disorder. Journal of Child & Family Studies, 21.2, 303-310.
© Copyright 2012 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved.
The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.