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Early Predictors of Separation Anxiety Disorder: Early Stranger Anxiety, Parental Pathology and Prenatal Factors

Lavallee K.a · Herren C.a · Blatter-Meunier J.a · Adornetto C.b · In-Albon T.a · Schneider S.a
aDepartment of Psychology, Universität Basel, and bKinder- und Jugendpsychiatrische Klinik Basel, Basel, Switzerland; cDepartment of Psychology, Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Bochum, Germany Psychopathology 2011;44:354–361 (DOI:10.1159/000326629)


Objective: The present study seeks to extend research on the etiology of separation anxiety disorder (SAD) in a German-speaking sample by examining differences between children with SAD and healthy comparisons, using a retrospective-reporting paradigm. Method: The sample included 106 children with SAD and 44 healthy children between the ages of 4 and 14 years. Parents completed questionnaires and structured clinical interviews to assess parental pathology, pregnancy variables and strong early stranger anxiety. Results: Children with SAD were more likely than healthy children to have had a phase of stronger stranger anxiety in infancy. Further, early stranger anxiety remained a significant predictor of SAD after controlling for maternal depression. Meaningful effects were not found for the influence of parental age at birth or other pregnancy factors. Conclusion: This study provides beginning evidence of the potential predictive value of strong stranger anxiety in distinguishing children with SAD from those with no disorder, above and beyond the influence of parental pathology.


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