Anxiety disorders are the most frequent psychiatric disorders in children and adolescents and have adverse effects on their psychosocial functioning. An increasing number of studies are aimed at its prevention.
This meta-analysis included 65 studies on anxiety prevention. We found small but significant effects on anxiety at posttest (symptoms: g = .22, diagnosis: g = .23; SD units) and follow-up (symptoms: g = .19, diagnosis: g = .32). Intervention effects at posttest varied by type of prevention: Indicated/selective prevention programs showed lager effect sizes than universal programs.
At follow-up, smaller effects were found in samples with higher percentages of girls and stronger effect size for programs focusing primarily on anxiety prevention.
We conclude: Anxiety prevention programs produce effects size of practical relevance. More efforts are needed for assessing the long-term program effects on the risk for developing anxiety disorders and for improving long-term prevention effects on girls.
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