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Friendship in Children with Anxiety Disorders: A Longitudinal Examination


There is a need for study on high quality friendship and its effects on children with special needs, specifically. One primary goal of this study was to examine the effect of anxiety on friendship over the course of three years. Participants were 172 children with and without anxiety disorders at a "laboratory" school who completed an interview on their best friendships. These interviews were analyzed with a new instrument, the Friendship Quality Coding Scale, which was found to be a valid tool with good interrater reliability and correlations to other metrics of friendship. For both children who met criteria for diagnosis with anxiety and those who did not, friendship quality was found to have a negative relationship with anxiety over time. When looking at individual types of anxiety, specifically Social Anxiety/Social Phobia, a negative relationship was found with friendship, again for both children with clinical levels of anxiety and those without. However, individuals without clinical levels of anxiety who nonetheless displayed elevated levels of Harm Avoidance showed increased friendship quality over time. A qualitative analysis revealed some differences in the way children without anxiety characterized their friends; they often described them as "nice," a term not often used by children with anxiety. Children with anxiety, also tended to give shorter and less-detailed responses to interviewer questions, and when asked to make wishes for their friends, they made wishes that would benefit themselves. These findings did not change over time.

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