Targeted Prevention of Childhood Anxiety: Engaging Parents in an Underserved Community


Selective prevention programs hold the promise of alleviating child anxiety symptoms, decreasing the risk for emotional problems across the lifespan. Such programs have particular public health import for young children of poor, underserved communities. Identifying factors related to parent engagement, and methods to improve engagement, are paramount in the effort to develop anxiety-focused, community prevention programs. This feasibility study investigated the effect of an enhanced recruitment strategy to maximize parent engagement, as well as factors related to attendance in a single session focused on anxiety prevention. Participants were poor, ethnic minority parents of children aged 11–71 months (n = 256) who completed a survey that assessed anxiety risk according to trauma exposure, child anxiety, or parent anxiety, as well as preferences for preventive services (phase 1). Those meeting risk criteria (n = 101) were invited to a preventive group session (phase 2). Half of parents received enhanced recruitment (ER), which included personalized outreach, matching parent preferences, and community endorsement. Other parents were invited by mail. Chi square analyses indicated that ER was associated with planning to attend (49 vs. 6 % of control). Parents receiving ER were 3.5 times more likely to attend. Higher sociodemographic risk was correlated with higher child anxiety symptoms but not attendance. Results highlight the need for improved strategies for engaging parents in preventive, community-based interventions.

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American Journal of Community Psychology



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