At risk for anxiety: I. Psychopathology in the offspring of anxious parents

J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 1997 Jul;36(7):918-24. doi: 10.1097/00004583-199707000-00013.


Objective and method: Children of parents with anxiety disorders, depressive disorders, mixed anxiety/depressive disorders, and no psychiatric disorder were assessed with semistructured interviews to determine rates of overall psychopathology and to determine specifically the presence of anxiety disorders.

Results: Children of the three "high-risk" groups were significantly more likely to have a diagnosable disorder (including anxiety disorders) than offspring of normal parents, but there were no differences among the children from the three parental diagnostic groups. However, when examined specifically for anxiety disorders, offspring of anxious parents were significantly more likely to have only anxiety disorders. Offspring of depressed or mixed anxious/depressed parents had a broader range of disorders and more comorbid disorders. Family socioeconomic status was related to the probability that a child would have a disorder.

Conclusions: Anxiety disorders are common among offspring of anxious and depressed parents. However, when a parent has depression, children exhibit a broader range of psychopathology than when a parent has an anxiety disorder alone.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety Disorders / diagnosis
  • Anxiety Disorders / genetics*
  • Anxiety Disorders / psychology
  • Child
  • Child of Impaired Parents / psychology*
  • Depressive Disorder / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder / genetics
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Personality Development
  • Psychopathology
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Environment