DSM-IV criteria for childhood separation anxiety disorder: Informant, age, and sex differences

Jennifer L. Allen, Kristen L. Lavallee, Chantal Herren, Katharina Ruhe, Silvia Schneider

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Citations (SciVal)


Background: The present study examines frequency of DSM-IV symptom and diagnostic criteria for separation anxiety disorder (SAD) by informant, age, and sex. Methods: Children aged 4-15 years with a primary DSM-IV diagnosis of SAD (N=106) were assessed using structured diagnostic interviews (Kinder-DIPS; DSM-IV-TR Version). Frequency of DSM-IV symptom and diagnostic criteria were examined as a function of informant and child characteristics, along with impairment and distress ratings. Results: The most frequently reported symptoms were separation-related distress, avoidance of being alone/without an adult and sleeping away from caregivers or from home, with nightmares the least frequently endorsed criterion. Child report did not yield any significant sex or age differences. However, parent report revealed greater reluctance or avoidance of school attendance for girls than boys, and for younger children (<8 years). Parent report indicated greater symptom-related impairment than child report, and the number of symptoms was correlated with impairment based on parent report, and with distress based on child report. Conclusions: The primary indicators of SAD appear to be separation distress, avoidance of being alone, and sleeping away from caregivers. Findings suggest that parents may be best placed to determine impairment, while children may be the most accurate reporters of more covert internal distress. Implications for clinicians are that reports from multiple informants should be used to gain the most comprehensive information about childhood SAD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)946-952
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Anxiety Disorders
Issue number8
Early online date1 Jul 2010
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2010


  • Diagnosis
  • DSM
  • Separation anxiety disorder

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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