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Anxiety Disorders in Children and Their Families

Cynthia G. Last, PhD; Michel Hersen, PhD; Alan Kazdin, PhD; Helen Orvaschel, PhD; Sean Perrin, MS
Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1991;48(10):928-934. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1991.01810340060008.
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• The first- and second-degree relatives of children with anxiety disorders were compared with relatives of children with attention deficit—hyperactivity disorder and children who had never been psychiatrically ill for lifetime rates of psychopathological conditions, particularly anxiety disorders. Results from blind, diagnostic interviews indicated an increased prevalence of anxiety disorders in the first-degree relatives of children with anxiety disorder compared with relatives of both children with attention deficit— hyperactivity disorder and never psychiatrically ill children. Relationships between specific anxiety disorders in children and their relatives revealed an increased rate of panic disorder among the first-degree relatives of children with overanxious disorder, compared with the relatives of children with separation anxiety disorder and children with other types of anxiety disorders. There also was a trend for panic disorder to be more prevalent among relatives of children with panic disorder than among relatives of children with anxiety disorder without panic. Obsessive-compulsive disorder was the only other anxiety disorder that appeared to show a similar specific relationship between children and their relatives. In general, the findings from this study suggest that there is a familial component involved in the pathogenesis of childhood anxiety disorders. The specificity of this relationship varies among individual anxiety disorders.


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