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Anxiety disorders are the most common psychiatric disorder in children and young people. They can be prevented in those at risk, but families do not always take up opportunities to participate in prevention programmes. This qualitative study aimed to understand what families with children who were at prospective risk of anxiety disorders perceived to be the barriers to access to targeted anxiety prevention programmes, and to explore what would help facilitate access. We used Information Power to determine our sample size, and individually interviewed seven young people (14-17 years) who had anxiety disorders and their mothers, each of whom had pre-natal anxiety disorders. We transcribed all interviews and thematically analyzed them to identify perceived barriers and facilitators to targeted anxiety prevention programmes. Perceived potential barriers to access included possible negative consequences of anxiety prevention, difficulties in identifying anxiety as a problem and concerns about how professions would respond to raising concerns about anxiety. Possible facilitators included promoting awareness of anxiety prevention programmes and involvement of schools in promotion and delivery of prevention. Our findings illustrate that implementation of targeted anxiety prevention could be improved through (i) the provision of tools for parents to recognize anxiety in their children as a problem, (ii) promotion of awareness, as well as delivery, of anxiety prevention via schools and (iii) the involvement of parents and possibly adolescents in the intervention programme, but not younger children.

Original publication




Journal article


Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry

Publication Date



Anxiety, Behavioural inhibition, Prevention, Risk, Treatment access