Strong parental bonds can protect a child from anxiety

ONTARIO, Canada (KTVU and Wires) – A first of its kind, long-term study has found the bond a parent forms with their baby or toddler can actually prevent a child from becoming anxious later in life.

Researchers at the University of Waterloo in Canada studied 165 children, evaluating them periodically from four months old until they were teenagers, age 14 to 17.

Scientists observed the children separate and reunite with their parents.

Some children quickly rejoined their parent and were easily soothed.

Others showed anger or distress when their parent returned.

The children's reactions to unfamiliar objects, people and situations were also observed.

As they grew in to teens, researchers used a variety of anxiety assessments to evaluate the children.

Researchers then found that the shy children were at greater risk for anxiety as teens.

"We now understand that infants and young children with an inhibited temperament who also have insecure early attachment relationships are most likely to become socially anxious teens — especially boys," says co-author Heather Henderson, Ph.D.

Researchers say more work is needed to examine the role gender plays in anxiety.

They say this study is particularly critical because anxiety disorders are among the most common psychiatric problems seen in children and adolescents.

"The most important message from this study is that competent, responsive parents who form a secure relationship with their young children, can be an extremely important protective factor in their child's development," said Henderson.

The research appears in Child Development, the journal of the Society for Research in Child Development.