Parents favor counseling over meds for kids' anxiety

October 10, 2003

New research suggests that parents would rather send their children to counseling than give them medication for social anxiety disorder, a preference that has also been noted for childhood depression and attention-deficit disorder therapy.

Parents "may be particularly concerned about medication side effects," say Denise Chavira, Ph.D., of the University of California, San Diego and colleagues.

The study in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics also concludes that white parents are more accepting of both medication and counseling than Latino or black parents.

Chavira and colleagues collected 190 parents' opinions on social anxiety disorder treatment, along with information about their children's levels of social anxiety and previous mental health therapy.

Contrary to what the researchers expected, parents of children suffering with social anxiety disorder did not have significantly different treatment preferences or attitudes about social anxiety compared with those who did not have children with the disorder.

"It is likely that the somewhat 'invisible' nature of these disorders precludes parents from fully understanding their severity and associated impact," Chavira and colleagues say.

The researchers also found that parents whose children had used either medication or counseling in the past had more favorable feelings toward the two types of therapy. Parents who had a history of emotional problems themselves were also more likely to say that counseling would be useful for treating social anxiety disorder.

Parents' beliefs about social anxiety disorder therapies may play an essential role in how much their children benefit from treatment, Chavira and colleagues say, noting that attitudes can affect whether parents accept and follow through with a particular therapy.
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FOR MORE INFORMATION

Health Behavior News Service: 202-387-2829 or www.hbns.org.
Interviews: Contact Denise Chavira at 858-622-6108 or dchavira@ucsd.edu.
Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics: Contact Mary Sharkey at 212-595-7717.

Center for Advancing Health

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