Children who avoid scary situations are more likely to have anxiety,
according to researchers who developed a new way to assess avoidance behaviour
The Mayo Clinic study included more than 800 children, aged seven to 18, and used
two eight-question surveys, one for parents and one for children.
The parents' survey asks about their children's tendencies to avoid scary
situations. For example: "When your child is scared or worried about something,
does he or she ask to do it later?"
The children's survey asks them to describe their avoidance habits. For
example: "When I feel scared or worried about something, I try not to go near
Children who tried to avoid scary situations at the start of the study were
more likely than other children to have anxiety a year later, according to the
Face it, to manage it
"This new approach may enable us to identify kids who are at risk for an
anxiety disorder," study lead author Stephen Whiteside, a pediatric psychologist
with the Mayo Clinic Children's Center, said in a Mayo news release.
"And further, because cognitive behaviour therapy focuses on decreasing
avoidance behaviours, our approach may also provide a means to evaluate whether
current treatment strategies work [the way] we think they do," he added.
Whiteside said 25 children with anxiety underwent counselling that slowly
exposed them to situations that caused fears. This led to a decline in their
"Kids who avoid fearful situations don't have the opportunity to face their
fears and don't learn that their fears are manageable," Whiteside explained.
The Nemours Foundation has more about anxiety,
phobias and fears in children.