Can we prevent anxiety in children?
A new research study will investigate whether it is possible to prevent anxiety in children through an initiative called Cool Little Kids. The project is being supported by a grant of DKK 3,688,429 from TrygFonden.
Cool Little Kids is a programme for children from 3-6 years who are at risk of developing an anxiety disorder, i.e. children who are behaviourally impaired and have at least one parent who experiences anxiety symptoms.
"Anxiety is the most common disorder among children and adolescents. Untreated anxiety disorder in children will often continue into adolescence and adulthood, with major consequences for the child's health, social life and educational opportunities. The costs of anxiety are high; in fact, anxiety costs Danish society more than depression, cancer and diabetes. It is therefore important to focus on prevention and early intervention to reduce the incidence of anxiety disorders," says Associate Professor Johanne Jeppesen Lomholt, CEBU (Centre for the Psychological Treatment of Children and Adolescents), Department of Psychology and Behavioural Sciences, Aarhus BSS, who is one of the researchers behind the study.
Various models have been developed focusing on the development of anxiety in children and adolescents. One risk factor that has been widely studied is behavioural inhibition in children. Studies have found that children with behavioural inhibitions have a significantly greater risk of developing anxiety. Research has also found that the occurrence of anxiety in parents and the parents' behaviour in relation to their child, in this context particularly over-involvement, are significant risk factors with respect to children developing anxiety. These risk factors are therefore an important focus with regard to prevention and early intervention.
The effect of Cool Little Kids has been investigated in several randomised controlled trials and results are good in both the short and long terms in reducing the development of anxiety. However, there is still a lack of research, especially into the long-term effects of Cool Little Kids.
Cool Little Kids has been translated and tested in Denmark in a small study, but the effect of the programme in a Danish context has not been studied. So far, no preventive anxiety programmes for toddlers have been widely implemented in Denmark, so implementation of the Cool Little Kids programme in Denmark would be very useful.
What the researchers are going to do
The first part of the project is a small feasibility study to evaluate the feasibility of the project and the users' experience of the programme. The next part of the project will be developed on the basis of this.
The following, and largest part of the project will be a randomised controlled study to compare the effect of Cool Little Kids with a control group who will receive the usual products and services for these children; usually from the municipal PPC (pedagogical-psychological counselling).
It is expected that 224 children will be enrolled, all of whom have behavioural inhibition scores and at least one parent who has serious anxiety symptoms.
The Cool Little Kids groups will be based at CEBU (Centre for the Psychological Treatment of Children and Adolescents) and they will be looked after by psychologists at CEBU.
PhD, Associate Professor Johanne Jeppesen Lomholt