Childhood Anxiety Steadily On the Rise Since the 1950s
WebMD News Archive
"Also, with geographic mobility among families, involving
relocations to new cities, you are more likely to not know your neighbors, to
be away from family members," she says, increasing a child's isolation and
Children -- more than college students -- seemed to be most
affected by the family's stress. "That may be because personality is
forming during childhood and adolescence. You are going to carry your child
environment with you the rest of your life," says Twenge.
She tells WebMD, though, that economic factors -- like a
parent's unemployment -- "did not seem to play a role in creating
anxiety in children." Apparently, children are less concerned with whether
their family has enough money than whether it is threatened by violence or
divorce, she says.
The bottom line: chronic anxiety takes a toll on long-term
physical and mental health, Twenge says. "Anxiety can predispose to
depression. Anxiety is also linked to higher incidence of physical health
problems such as asthma, heart disease, gastrointestinal upsets."
To combat anxiety, she advises parents to limit children's --
and their own -- exposure to violent media. "People who watch local news
perceive their neighborhoods as more dangerous," Twenge tells WebMD.
"Work on your connections with other people. Get to know
your neighbors. Help your children build good relationships. Talk to friends
and family about your worries and fears. Social relationships can serve as
buffer against stress," she says. ... "Independence and freedom are
wonderful things, but they often do mean we're not as connected with other
people. It can be a trade off."
Also, examine your expectations about your life, Twenge
suggests. She says that although there is currently not a lot of research to
support this, "TV and movies have created higher expectations for us in
terms of appearance, wealth, jobs, and relationships. That has meant that we
aspire to an unreachable ideal, which can cause tremendous anxiety. I hate to
say don't watch TV and go to movies, but you can remind yourself that this is
an unrealistic ideal.
"You cannot change a child's genetics, but you can change
the media they watch, help them with the quality of their relationships,"
she says. "It's difficult to change the entire society, but you can change
society's impact on you and your family."