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Longitudinal investigation of the role of temperament and stressful life events in childhood anxiety

  • Suzanne Broeren (a1) (a2), Carol Newall (a1), Helen F. Dodd (a1) (a3), Ruth Locker (a1) and Jennifer L. Hudson (a1)...

The current study investigated the longitudinal relationships among behavioral inhibition (BI), life events, and anxiety in a sample of 102 BI children and 100 behaviorally uninhibited (BUI) children aged 3 to 4 years. Children's parents completed questionnaires on BI, stressful life events, and anxiety symptoms, and were administered a diagnostic interview three times in a 5-year period. In line with our hypotheses, negative life events, particularly negative behavior-dependent life events (i.e., life events that are related to the children's own behaviors), and the impact of negative life events were predictive of increases in subsequent anxiety symptoms, the likelihood of having an anxiety disorder, and increased number of anxiety diagnoses over the 5-year follow-up period. Experiencing more positive, behavior-independent life events decreased the risk of being diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. Furthermore, differences were found in life events between BI and BUI children. That is, BI children experienced fewer positive and specifically positive behavior-dependent life events, and the impact of these positive life events was also lower in BI children than in BUI children. However, BI did not interact with life events in the prediction of anxiety problems as hypothesized. Therefore, this study seems to indicate that BI and life events act as additive risk factors in the development of anxiety problems.

Corresponding author
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Jennifer Hudson, Centre for Emotional Health, Macquarie University, Macquarie, NSW 2109, Australia; E-mail:
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