Treatment of anxiety and depression in the preschool period

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

19 Scopus citations


Objective: Empirical studies have established that clinical anxiety and depressive disorders may arise in preschool children as young as 3.0 years. Because empirical studies validating and characterizing these disorders in preschoolers are relatively recent, less work has been done on the development and testing of age-appropriate treatments. Method: A comprehensive literature search yielded several small randomized controlled trials of psychotherapeutic treatments for preschool anxiety and depression. The literature also contained case series of behavioral and psychopharmacologic interventions for specific anxiety disorders. However, to date, no large-scale randomized controlled trials of treatment for any anxiety or depressive disorder specifically targeting preschool populations have been published. Results: Several age-adapted forms of cognitive-behavioral therapy have been developed and preliminarily tested in small randomized controlled trials and appear promising for different forms of preschool anxiety disorders. Notably, these adaptations centrally involve primary caregivers and use age-adjusted methodology such as cartoon-based materials and co-constructed drawing or narratives. Modified forms of Parent Child Interaction Therapy have been tested and appear promising for anxiety and depression. Although preventive interventions that target parenting have shown significant promise in anxiety, these methods have not been explored in early childhood depression. Studies of the impact of parental treatment on infants suggest that direct treatment of the youngest children may be necessary to affect long-term change. Conclusions: Recommendations are made for the clinical treatment of these disorders when psychotherapy is the first line of intervention.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)346-358
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2013


  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Preschool
  • Treatment

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