The development of worry throughout childhood: Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children data

Line Caes, Emma Fisher, Jacqui Clinch, Jonathan H. Tobias, Christopher Eccleston

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14 Citations (SciVal)


Objectives: Anxiety is a normal part of childhood and adolescence; however, longitudinal research investigating the development of worrisome thoughts throughout childhood is lacking. This study investigated mothers' perspectives on their child's normal development of worry as the cognitive component of anxiety and its impact on child functioning in a longitudinal population-based cohort. Methods: The data for this study were extracted from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children. Mothers (N = 2,227) reported on their child's worry content, frequency, control, emotional disruption, and interference when their child was 7, 10, and 13 years old using the parent component of the Development and Well-being Assessment. At age 10 and 13, pubertal status was assessed using children's self-report of pubic hair developmental progress. Results: Mothers reported a peak of worrisome thoughts at 10. Emotional disruption was highest at 10, and the highest level of interference in daily life was observed at 13, especially for girls. Advanced pubertal status and worry frequency were positively associated for boys at 10 and girls at 13. Advanced puberty at 10 was also associated with overall higher worry frequency and emotional disruption. Conclusions: Findings are discussed within a developmental framework outlining the normal development of worrisome thoughts, associated distress, and interference throughout early adolescence. Increased knowledge of normative worry could be informative to further our understanding of adolescence as a vulnerable period for the development of mental health problems, such as generalized anxiety disorder.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)389-406
JournalBritish Journal of Health Psychology
Issue number2
Early online date13 Dec 2015
Publication statusPublished - May 2016


  • Anxiety
  • Child development
  • Emotional disruption
  • Interference
  • Worry


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