Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

Cool little kids

Effectiveness of an early intervention program for anxiety-prone toddlers in the Netherlands

2020 - 2024
Leonie Vreeke
ZonMw ZonMw

Anxiety disorders affect approximately 20% of all individuals before the age of 16 (e.g., Polanczyk, Salum, Sugaya, Caye, & Rohde, 2015), which makes these among the most common forms of psychopathology among children. The high prevalence, negative outcomes and the continuity of anxiety problems emphasize the importance of early, effective interventions. Clear markers exist to detect toddlers at risk of developing anxiety disorders. One of those markers in children is behavioral inhibition, a temperament characteristic expressed as showing shy behavior in unknown and challenging situations, and with unknown people (e.g., Clauss & Blackford, 2012; Kagan, Snidman, & Gibbons, 1989). A valid and reliable Dutch screening measure is available (the BIQ-SF, Vreeke et al., 2012), however, an preventive intervention is not yet available. 

A promising early intervention for these anxiety-prone toddlers called ‘Cool Little Kids’ (CLK; Rapee et al., 2005) has been developed in Australia. This brief parenting program provides psycho-education to parents about the nature and development of, and risks for anxiety disorders. Parents are also taught practical ways to reduce child anxiety through graded exposure, contingency management, reduction of overprotective behaviors, and management of their own fears and worries. 

In the current study, an interdisciplinary project group aims to evaluate the (cost)effectiveness of this parenting program in reducing the severity of anxiety problems in children aged 2 - 6 years in the Netherlands. In addition, we will examine the mediating role of parental anxiety and overprotective parenting on intervention outcomes and to examine treatment integrity and parents' satisfaction.

To do so, inhibited children between the ages of 2 and 6 years and their parents will be recruited by a PhD student in collaboration with the Public Health Service of Amsterdam (GGD Amsterdam) and the participating mental health organizations.

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