Patterns of diagnostic comorbidity in children and adolescents with anxiety

Kelly Hammond-Laurence, Florida International University


Comorbidity is defined as the co-occurrence of two or more psychological disorders and has been identified as one of the most pressing issues facing child psychologists today. Unfortunately, research on comorbidity in anxious children is rare. The purpose of this research was to examine how specific comorbid patterns in children and adolescents referred with anxiety disorders affected clinical presentation. In addition, the effects of gender, age and total number of diagnoses were also examined. Three hundred fifty-five children and adolescents (145 girls and 210 boys, hereafter referred to as "children") aged 6 to 17 who presented to the Child Anxiety and Phobia Program during the years 1987 through 1996 were assessed through a structured clinical interview administered to both the children and their families. Based on information from both children and parents, children were assigned up to five DSM diagnoses. Global ratings of severity were also obtained. While children were interviewed, parents completed a number of questionnaires pertaining to their child's overall functioning, anxiety, thoughts and behaviors. Similarly, while parents were interviewed, children completed a number of self-report questionnaires concerning their own thoughts, feelings and behaviors. In general, children with only anxiety disorders were rated as severe as children who met criteria for both anxiety and externalizing disorders. Children with both anxiety and externalizing disorders were mostly young (i.e. age 6 through 11) and mostly male. These children tended to rate themselves (and be rated by their parents) equally as anxious as children with only anxiety disorders. Global ratings of severity tended to be associated with the type of comorbid pattern versus the number of diagnoses assigned to a child. The theoretical, development and clinical implications of these findings will be discussed.

Subject Area

Psychotherapy|Developmental psychology

Recommended Citation

Hammond-Laurence, Kelly, "Patterns of diagnostic comorbidity in children and adolescents with anxiety" (1996). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI9700486.