Child Psychiatry & Human Development

, Volume 46, Issue 1, pp 150–157 | Cite as

Anxiety Disorders and Behavioral Inhibition in Preschool Children: A Population-Based Study

  • Frank W. Paulus
  • Aline Backes
  • Charlotte S. Sander
  • Monika Weber
  • Alexander von Gontard
Original Article

Abstract

This study assessed the prevalence of anxiety disorders in preschool children and their associations with behavioral inhibition as a temperamental precursor. A representative sample of 1,342 children aged 4–7 years (M = 6;1, SD = 4.80) was examined with a standardized parental questionnaire, including items referring to anxiety disorders at the current age and behavioral inhibition at the age of 2 years. The total prevalence of anxiety disorders was 22.2 %. Separation anxiety (SAD) affected 7 %, social phobia (SOC) 10.7 %, specific phobia (PHOB) 9.8 % and depression/generalized anxiety (MDD/GAD) 3.4 % of children. The prevalence of most types of anxiety was higher in girls except for separation anxiety, which affected more boys. Behavioral inhibition in the second year of life was associated with all types of anxiety. Anxiety disorders are common but frequently overlooked in preschool children. Different subtypes can be differentiated and are often preceded by behavioral inhibition. Assessment, prevention and treatment of anxiety disorders are recommended in preschool children.

Keywords

Anxiety disorders Prevalence Behavioral inhibition Preschool age Gender differences 

Abbreviations

BI

Behavioral inhibition

CBCL/1½–5

Child behavior checklist 1½–5

CBCL/4–18

Child behavior checklist 4–18

DSM-5

Diagnostic and statistical manual-5

GAD

General anxiety disorder

IBQ-R

Infant behavior questionnaire

ICD-10

International classification of diseases-10

MDD/GAD

Major depressive disorder/generalized anxiety disorder

PAPA

Preschool age psychiatric assessment

PHOB

Specific phobia

RIBI

Retrospective infant behavioral inhibition scale

SAD

Separation anxiety disorder

SOC

Social phobia

Notes

Acknowledgments

The authors would like to thank Prof. E. Möhler for the provision of the RIBI items [46].

Conflict of interest

There is no conflict of interest.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Frank W. Paulus
    • 1
  • Aline Backes
    • 1
  • Charlotte S. Sander
    • 1
  • Monika Weber
    • 2
  • Alexander von Gontard
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Child and Adolescent PsychiatrySaarland University HospitalHomburgGermany
  2. 2.Institute for Community HealthSaarlouisGermany

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