Script from podcast
Risk factors associated with anxiety disorders in children
Good afternoon community, welcome to this week’s edition of Elle’s World – Everything Education. I’m your narrator, Lisa Harwell. Last week the discussion topic centered on the importance of attachment, which is extremely important for young children, age zero through eight. This week I would like to discuss that without healthy attachments and social environments, what are some risk factors that children can be exposed to that could possibly affect their academic success and relationships into adulthood. How can we as educators address these issues to find viable solutions for at risk children?
Anxiety can be described as our emotional uneasiness in stressful situations. Anxiety, in children, can be displayed in forms of mild shyness to severe bouts of depression, bed-wetting, anger issues, eating disorders or experimentation in drugs and alcohol as coping mechanisms. Anxiety disorders can result from a number of factors: social environment, family relations and behavioral (Pantis et al., 2015). Research reports that children from low-income or dysfunctional families are at a higher risk of developing anxiety disorders (Pantis et al., 2015). Children begin learning social interaction as early as six months of age. As toddlers, they began to build their own judgements and expectations about the security of different relationships they develop (Kerns & Brumariu, 2014). For children, healthy attached relationships come with spending quality time, on a consistent basis in order for them to feel secure. Relationships not built on these premises can contribute to other anxiety disorders, physical ailments or behavioral issues in children.
Traumatic experiences such as physical or sexual abuse and other direct or indirect exposures to violence can trigger anxiety disorders. At least one child out of every ten children is exposed to some type of physical abuse (Bishop et al., 2014). Risk factors for children enduring physical abuse can range from eating disorders, bullying, anger management issues and depression. Often times, the abuser is someone that the child knows, making them fearful of establishing healthy and trusting relationships with other peers or adults. Repeated exposure to sexual abuse can lead to sexual risk behaviors or addictions beginning in adolescents onto adulthood (Wilson et al., 2014).
The effects of anxiety disorder at an early age can be detrimental if left untreated. As educators, with the right discussions and tools we can decrease these situations and provide our students with a safe haven in which they can be productive, feel secure and thrive academically and socially. One of the most important tools we have is communication. Establishing a strong partnership with parents and support personnel to help identify stressing qualifiers in order to create a plan of action that will help diminish anxiety and build coping mechanisms for children to utilize. Encourage an open door policy in your classrooms. Allow free time for students to come and discuss their concerns or fears. Sometimes just listening provides an opportunity for children to work through their anxiety.
More comprehensive intervention programs similar to Friends for Life (Zwaanswijk & Kösters, 2015) teach children how to identify anxiety symptoms along with methods on how to cope through relaxation and other cognitive behavioral skills, such as positive reinforcement in self-respect and confidence building (Kösters et al., 2015).
Experts caution us in our examination of risk factors to include the whole picture before implementing any plans of action. Every aspect from family, to cultural, local to national environment, as well as the biological factors of the child and parents should weigh into the interplays and interactions of a child’s world (Woolfenden et al., 2015).
Every parent wishes that their children can be shielded from traumatic situations until they reach adulthood. However our world is dynamic. Social and economic policies dictate how calm our world remains on a daily basis. As parents and educators, the best tools we can provide our children are the tools and resources to alleviate risks that compound anxieties in order for them to succeed successfully, both academically and socially.
Thank you for listening to this week’s discussion. If you would like to comment or need a written copy of this podcast, feel free to visit Elle’s World – Everything Education at https://lyharwell.wordpress.com.
Bishop, M., Rosenstein, D., Bakelaar, S., & Seedat, S. (2014). An analysis of early developmental trauma in social anxiety disorder and posttraumatic stress disorder. Annals of General Psychiatry, 13(1), 1-24
Kerns, K. A., & Brumariu, L. E. (2014). Is insecure parent-child attachment a risk factor for the development of anxiety in childhood or adolescence? Child Development Perspectives, 8(1), 12-17.
Kösters, M. P., Chinapaw, M. M., Zwaanswijk, M., van der Wal, M. F., & Koot, H. M. (2015). Indicated prevention of childhood anxiety and depression: Results from a practice-based study up to 12 months after intervention. American Journal of Public Health, 105(10), 2005-2013.
Pantis, E., Sipos, R., Predescu, E., & Miclutia, I. (2015). Assessment of the risk factors involved in the onset of anxiety disorders in children and adolescents. Acta Medica Transilvanica, 20(4), 19-22.
Wilson, H., Donenberg, G., & Emerson, E. (2014). Childhood violence exposure and the development of sexual risk in low-income African American girls. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 37(6), 1091-1101.
Woolfenden, S., Williams, K., Eapen, V., Mensah, F., Haven, A., Siddiqi, A., & Kemp, L. (2015). Developmental vulnerability – don’t investigate without a model in mind. Child Care, Health & Development, 41(3), 337-345.
Zwaanswijk, M., & Kösters, M. P. (2015). Children’s and Parents’ Evaluations of ‘FRIENDS for Life’, an Indicated School-Based Prevention Program for Children with Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression. Behaviour Change, 32(4), 243-254.