Worry in childhood: A developmental perspective

Michael W. Vasey, Keith A. Crnic, Wende G. Carter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

139 Scopus citations


Age-related and developmental differences in the content and process of worry were examined in children 5 to 6, 8 to 9, and 11 to 12 years of age. These ages were chosen to approximate three levels of cognitive development. A measure of self-concept development was also included. Results suggest that worrisome thoughts occur in children's anxious experiences across the age range studied. However, such thoughts were found to be more prevalent among children age 8 and older. Furthermore, children in the two older groups generated a significantly greater variety of worries than 5- to 6-year-olds. These older children were also significantly more able to elaborate the potentially negative consequences of selected worrisome possiblities. These findings suggest that the worry process may become increasingly complex in middle childhood. Results also supported the view that the content of children's worries is constrained by social-cognitive limitations reflected by their age and level of self-concept development. Worries related to physical well-being decreased significantly, while concerns about behavioral competence, social evaluation and psychological well-being became more prevalent with increasing age and self-concept complexity. Implications for a definition of worry in childhood and its role in childhood anxiety are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)529-549
Number of pages21
JournalCognitive Therapy and Research
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 1994


  • anxiety
  • child development
  • cognition
  • worry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology


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