Anxiety in children and adolescents with cerebral palsy

Jane McMahon, Adrienne Harvey, Susan M. Reid, Tamara May, Giuliana Antolovich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Aims: To describe the prevalence of, and factors associated with, anxiety in 6–18-year-old children with cerebral palsy (CP) and determine how often clinicians screen for and manage anxiety in this group. Methods: Using a population CP register as the sampling pool, 569 families were approached by email, and 172 (mean age of children 12 years 7 months [SD 3 years 5 months]; 96 males) participated. Parents and, where able, children completed the Screen for Child Anxiety Related Emotional Disorders (SCARED). Parents also completed the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire. Children's medical records were searched for previous anxiety diagnoses and treatments. Results: Clinically significant anxiety was identified in 38% of children on parent reports and 46% on child reports. Girls were twice as likely to have anxiety (p = 0.02). Parent- and child-reported scores were strongly correlated (r = 0.853). Fewer parents of children with intellectual and communication impairments completed the survey. Based on the SCARED parent reports, anxiety was not identified by a clinician in 16 children (43%) with clinically significant anxiety. Conclusion: Anxiety symptoms are prominent among children with CP, indicating a need for routine screening. Available screening tools are unsuitable for children with more severe limitations in cognition and communication; further research is needed to address this gap.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Paediatrics and Child Health
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 15 May 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • anxiety
  • cerebral palsy
  • children
  • developmental
  • psychiatry/mental health

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