Preliminary Examination of a Group CBT Treatment for the Parents of Young Anxious Children



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Anxiety disorders are the most commonly diagnosed disorder in youth (Grills Taquechel & Ollendick, 2007; Rapee, Schniering, & Hudson, 2009; Costello, Egger, & Angold, 2004). In fact, research has demonstrated that symptoms of anxiety disorders can often be observed as early as preschool (Goodyear-Brown, 2010; Link-Egger & Angold, 2006), and traits identified as early as infancy (Lyons-Ruth, Zeanah, & Benoit, 2003). Unfortunately, research on treatments for early childhood anxiety has lagged behind that of treatments for older youth. Given potential developmental constraints, adaptations may be necessary for best treating young anxious children. For instance, treatments of younger aged children tend to have greater parental involvement. The present study presents preliminary findings from a cognitive-behavioral early childhood intervention for anxiety that focused on parent training. This project was adapted from a treatment developed and shown to be effective by Cartwright-Hatton and colleagues (2005). The treatment consisted of a parents-only group therapy format with the typical components of behavioral parent training (e.g., praise, play, ignoring, etc.) based within a cognitive framework (Cartwright-Hatton et al., 2005). In the current study, participants were the parents of 15 young children (ages 4-9) with symptoms of anxiety who attended a 10-week group therapy (M age =6.53 years; SD = 1.7). The child participants were 53% male and 47% female. The parent participants consisted of 12 mothers and 5 fathers. Fifty-three percent of the parent participants self-identified as Caucasian, 23% as Hispanic/Other, 12% Asian American, 6% African American, and 6% Biracial. Preliminary analyses support the efficacy of this treatment program as indicated by reduced child anxiety symptoms. More specifically, parent reports of child anxiety on the SCARED-R (Muris, Merckelbach, Schmidt, & Mayer, 1999) decreased significantly from pre- to post-treatment for overall anxiety symptoms, as well as specific areas of anxiety such as Panic, Generalized Anxiety, Separation Anxiety, and Post-Traumatic Stress symptoms. Further analyses examined pre- to post-treatment change on the Anxiety Disorders Interview Schedule for Children-Parent Report. Differences among treatment completers and non-completers were also explored. Findings were discussed in terms of associations between parental psychopathology and dropout by conducting multiple independent sample t-tests with completion status serving as the dependent variable and parental psychopathology as a predictor. It was expected that parents with psychopathology may have higher attrition rates than parents without psychopathology. Attrition was also examined in association with other commonly suggested contributing factors (i.e., ethnicity, child psychopathology, and improvement).



Childhood anxiety, Early childhood anxiety, Treatments, Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), Group therapy, Parent group therapy