UBC Theses and Dissertations
Preventing anxiety disorders in youth : universal school-based intervention Barker, Leslie Jayne
Childhood anxiety disorders are highly prevalent, cause significant distress and functional impairment, are risk factors for depression, suicidal ideation and attempts, substance abuse and smoking, yet often go unrecognized and untreated. As a result, effective prevention and early intervention have become policy and research priorities. This study evaluated the effectiveness of a universal school-based cognitive behavioural intervention in decreasing anxiety symptoms experienced by early adolescents during the transition from elementary to middle or secondary school. The role of gender, coping style, geographic location, and timing of the intervention were also assessed. Participants were 722 grade 7 and 8 students (11 – 14 years) from 41 classrooms in 20 randomly selected public schools in British Columbia. Schools were randomly assigned to either the FRIENDS for Youth program provided within regular classrooms, one hour weekly for 10 weeks or to a waitlist control group. Self-reported anxiety, depression and coping, and parent and teacher assessed difficulties were assessed at pre-, post, and six month follow-up. Results were examined universally and for children who scored above the clinical cut-off for anxiety at pre-test. Results indicate students, including those “at risk”, who participated in the FRIENDS for Youth program had lower anxiety than those in the control group at 6-month follow-up. Gender differences in self-reported anxiety as well as in response to the intervention were found, with girls, including those “at risk” reporting higher anxiety scores than boys, and intervention group girls reporting significantly lower anxiety scores at post-intervention and at 6-month follow-up compared to the control group. Teachers assessed girls as having lower difficulties scores than boys, and intervention group girls reporting significantly lower difficulties scores at post-intervention than the control group. Grade 7 elementary students had significantly lower anxiety scores than middle school students and grade 7 students in the intervention group had significantly lower anxiety scores at post-intervention than the control group. Overall, intervention effects on anxiety were small. For “at risk” participants and for girls, however, the intervention was effective. Results demonstrated a prevention effect with significantly fewer “at risk” students at 6-month follow-up in the intervention group than the control group.
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