Academic Impairment and Impact of Treatments Among Youth with Anxiety Disorders

Jennifer E. Nail, Jennifer Christofferson, Golda S. Ginsburg, Kelly Drake, Philip C. Kendall, James T. McCracken, Boris Birmaher, John T. Walkup, Scott N. Compton, Courtney Keeton, Dara Sakolsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Background: Global academic difficulties have often been reported in youth with anxiety disorders, however, little is known about the specific academic deficits in this population. Objective: To (a) evaluate the prevalence of seven specific academic impairments in children and adolescents with anxiety disorders, (b) determine whether these impairments are associated with demographic (i.e., race, gender and age) and clinical characteristics (i.e., type of disorder, anxiety severity and global impairment) and (c) examine the impact of anxiety treatments on these impairments. Methods: As part of the Child-Adolescent Anxiety Multimodal Study (a randomized controlled trial), academic impairments, anxiety severity and global impairment were measured in 488 youth (mean age = 10.7 years) with separation, social and/or generalized anxiety disorders. Results: At baseline, 47 % of the sample was rated as impaired on 4 out of 7 items, and nearly 10 % of the sample was rated as academically impaired on 6 out of 7 items. Conversely, 28 % reported no impairment across the 7 items. There were no significant differences in parent-reported academic impairments by race, age or gender. Academic impairment was significantly, positively correlated with anxiety severity and negatively correlated with global functioning. Treatment responders were significantly more likely than non-responders to evidence improvement across all seven specific academic items. Conclusions: Specific academic impairments are prevalent among youth with anxiety disorders. The benefits of evidence-based treatments (i.e., medication/sertraline; CBT/Coping cat) extend beyond symptom relief to include improved academic performance, as perceived by parents, in youth with anxiety disorders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)327-342
Number of pages16
JournalChild and Youth Care Forum
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2015


  • Academic functioning/impairment
  • Adolescent anxiety
  • Anxiety
  • Child anxiety
  • Treatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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