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The Etiology of Anxiety in Children, Essay Example

Pages: 2

Words: 656

Essay

The 2010 review, Temperament and the environment in the etiology of childhood anxiety, by the authors Degnan, Almas, and Fox,exploreshow anxiety develops in childhood and adolescence. In this review, the authors analyzepredisposing factors for anxiety, such as behavioral inhibition (BI) and environmental factors. BI is a condition thathas similar characteristics of social anxiety, but afflicted individuals additionally possess greater autonomic reactivity, elevated morning cortisol levels, increased startle responses, and increased amygdala activation in response to unpleasant situations.BI is said to affect 15-20% of individuals diagnosed with anxiety. The authors also evaluate how environmental factors contribute to anxiety, such as parenting methods, and relationships with caregivers and peers.The methods used to evaluate the subjects werecross-sectional studies, surveys, and questionnaires.  Parents provided most of the information regarding the children’s early temperament, anxiety problems,and personality traits. The authors were unable to draw any definite conclusions and expressed that further studies are necessary to better understand the precise cause of anxiety in children. The authors do suggest that BI may create a certain vulnerability in children, which begins a cycle of social withdrawal, leading to a number of internalizing disorders, such as anxiety.

Anxiety and BI are often confused with one another, but the authors were able to deduce from the literature that the two conditions are independent, even though they are interrelated.  This review produced information which may be useful clinically, but did not uncover the information for which the authors were searching. While they discovered more information about the disorder, they still are unable to state that anxiety is precisely caused by BI, genetics, or environmental factures.

The main problem with this review is that there is very little objective evidence. The authors reviewed extensive literature describing cross-sectional studies that relied on information supplied by parents in the form of questionnaires and surveys. The authors admit the limitations of the studies, and realize that more objective measure must be taken to further their understanding of the temperament and psychopathology of childhood anxiety.  It is most likely the result of a measurement error that more children are labeled with BI, than those who actually have this disorder.  Parents were relied upon for the data of their children’s current and past temperament. Parents also had to supply information regarding peer interaction; this information may have been obtained from a third-party.Another problem with information supplied by the parents is that anxiety is often caused by certain parenting methods; most parents would be unable to admit that they contributed to their children’s problems. There was also little consistency withthe different surveys and questionnaires being used to measure the differences of anxiety and BI.Researchers must agree on a standard set of surveys and questionnaires in order to better evaluate anxiety’s relationship with BI.

While certain environmental factors must be taken into consideration in orderto better understand childhood anxiety and BI, researchers must find more objective ways to obtain information without damaging already sensitive children.However, obtaining objective measures would be difficult and could be potentially unethical. The children in question would have to be studied in a laboratory, and would need to have their autonomic systems monitored, PET scans to measure activity in the amygdala and other areas of the brain, and have their blood drawn to measure morning cortisol levels. These situations would be stressful to any child.  Perhaps instead of just relying on information provided by parents, researchers could observe the children in their home environments and their interactions with their peers.  The researchers could then fill out standardized surveys and questionnaires. While this is not a “perfect fix,” it would allow researchers to obtain more objective data for future use.  From a scientific perspective, this research data is weak at best. However, from an ethical perspective, researchers must be careful when studying emotionally sensitive children.

References

Degnan, K., Almas, A., & Fox, N. (2010). Temperament and the environment in the etiology of childhood anxiety. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 51(4), 497-517. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2884043/

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