Background: Adolescence is a period of vulnerability regarding the emergence of internalizing disorders such as anxiety. Anxiety symptoms can persist into adulthood and involve negative outcomes. The aim of the study was to examine the developmental trajectory of several anxiety subtypes by gender, in a non-clinical sample of early adolescents over three phases.
Method: Using a prospective design, 1514 children (mean-age = 10.23, SD = 1.23) underwent anxiety and depression screening in the first phase. Then, 562 children (mean-age = 11.25, SD = 1.04) participated in the second phase, and 242 (mean-age = 13.52; SD = .94) were followed up in the third phase. The Screen for Child Anxiety Related Emotional Disorders was administered in all phases. Developmental trajectories of anxiety scores were examined using latent growth modelling.
Results: Manifestations of social phobia and generalized anxiety disorders remained stable. Gender differences were found: boys showed a significant decrease in the developmental trajectories of somatic/panic symptoms, separation anxiety disorder and total anxiety in comparison to girls.
Conclusions: The data indicate that anxiety symptomatology is a significant clinical phenomenon in school-age children but that it does not increase throughout early adolescence. It is important to identify developmental patterns for anxiety subtypes and in relation to gender.