Early Childhood Predictors of Anxiety in Early Adolescence

  • Jennifer L. Hudson
  • Kou Murayama
  • Lotte Meteyard
  • Talia Morris
  • Helen F. Dodd


This longitudinal study examined a multitude of early childhood predictors of anxiety symptoms and disorders over an 8-year period. The purpose of the study was to identify early life predictors of anxiety across childhood and early adolescence in a sample of at-risk children. The sample included 202 preschool children initially identified as behaviorally inhibited or uninhibited between the ages of 3 years 2 months and 4 years 5 months. Temperament and familial environment variables were assessed using observation and parent report at baseline. Anxiety symptoms and disorders were assessed using questionnaires and diagnostic interviews at baseline (age 4), and at age 6, 9 and 12 years. In line with our hypotheses, the findings showed that preschool children were more likely to experience anxiety symptoms and disorders over time i) when the child was inhibited, ii) when there was a history of maternal anxiety disorders or iii) when mothers displayed high levels of overinvolvement. Further, the study identified a significant interaction effect between temperament and maternal overvinvolvement such that behaviorally inhibited preschoolers had higher anxiety symptoms at age 12, only in the presence of maternal overinvolvement at age 4. The increased risk of anxiety in inhibited children was mitigated when mothers demonstrated low levels of overinvolvement at age 4. This study provides evidence of both additive and interactive effects of temperament and family environment on the development of anxiety and provides important information for the identification of families who will most likely benefit from targeted early intervention.


Temperament Anxiety Internalising Parenting Attachment Behavioral inhibition 


Compliance with Ethical Standards


This project was supported by the Australian Research Council Discovery Grant (DP0342793) and Future Fellowship grant (Hudson: FT20100217). The study was also supported in part by JSPS KAKENHI (#16H06406 to K.M.) and the Leverhulme Trust (Grant # RL-2016-030 to K.M.).

Conflict of Interest

The authors report no financial interests or potential conflicts of interest.

Ethical Approval

The Macquarie University Human Ethics Committee approved the methods of the study.

Informed Consent

Mothers provided initial consent to participate in the study. Mothers and children both provided written, informed consent to participate in the 8 year follow-up.

Supplementary material

10802_2018_495_MOESM1_ESM.docx (18 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 18 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Emotional Health, Department of PsychologyMacquarie UniversitySydneyAustralia
  2. 2.School of Psychology and Clinical Language SciencesUniversity of ReadingReadingUK
  3. 3.Research InstituteKochi University of TechnologyKochiJapan

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