Sociodemographic Correlates of Anxiety Disorders in Children: A Cross-sectional Study in an Indian Outpatient Setting
Background: Anxiety disorders are the most frequent mental disorders in children and contribute to the development of secondary complications such as later risks of anxiety disorders, major depression, and other adverse developmental outcomes. However, very few studies in India have examined childhood anxiety disorders.
Aim: This study aimed to understand sociodemographic correlates of childhood anxiety disorders. Method: A total of 84 children aged 8-12, 42 in the anxiety group, and 42 healthy control group were evaluated. Anxiety group consisted of children who met the DSM-5 diagnostic criteria for anxiety disorders. The control group consisted of typically growing children matched on age and gender.
Results: The study sample consisted of a large proportion of children coming from a nuclear family, with at least one sibling, parents with graduate education, fathers with skilled jobs, and mothers who were housewives. Anxious children were not characterized by family type, siblings, parental education, or occupation. However, anxious children had a higher proportion of marital discord between parents, parental anxiety, and family history of mental illness. These variables explained 34% of the variance in anxiety disorders. 50% of fathers and 52% of mothers of children with anxiety disorders had anxiety symptoms themselves. Children whose parents had marital discord were 3.4 times more likely to develop anxiety disorders. Children with a family history of mental illness were 6.8 times more likely to develop anxiety disorders.
Conclusion: The results highlight the importance of screening and addressing dysfunctional relationships between parents and/or parental anxiety when children present with anxiety disorders.