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Does Separation Anxiety Disorder Run in Families?

Separation Anxiety Disorder is a psychological disorder characterised by anxiety in response to real or imagined separations from an attachment figure. Adults with separation anxiety can experience panic attacks and distressing and catastrophic thoughts when separated from their loved ones.


Researchers at the University of New South Wales investigated whether children with Separation Anxiety Disorder were more likely to have parent with the same type of anxiety disorder. In a study conducted in collaboration with researchers from Macquarie University, they interviewed parents of children with anxiety disorders to investigate whether Separation Anxiety in children was selectively associated with same type of anxiety in their parents. Fifty-four mothers and 29 fathers of 54 children diagnosed with an anxiety disorders participated in this study. Anxiety symptoms and psychiatric diagnoses were assessed in both parents and their children.


The study found that over one quarter (28%) of mothers and almost 50% of fathers of children diagnosed with anxiety, had themselves been diagnosed with at least one adult anxiety or depressive diagnosis across their lifetime. Of the 19 children diagnosed with Juvenile Separation Anxiety Disorder, almost two thirds (63%) had one parent that had been diagnosed with the adult form of the same disorder. A total of 14 parents from separate families were diagnosed with Adult Separation Anxiety Disorder in this study.


These findings indicate that Separation Anxiety Disorder tends to run in families. A combination of genetic factors together with parenting styles are thought to contribute to these findings. For example, children who have inherited a predisposition to develop Separation Anxiety Disorder may be more sensitive to their parents’ own anxieties and parenting behaviours. Nevertheless, more research is needed to confirm these findings.


If you  are interested in finding our more about Adult Separation Anxiety Disorder, please head to or contact the clinic and we will be more than happy to discuss this with you.



Manicavasagar, V., Silove, D., Rapee, R., F, W. and S, M., 2000. Parent-child concordance for separation anxiety

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