Subgroups of children
Children rated as highly anxious tended to be younger and were more likely to be male than their non-anxious peers, but the differences between these groups were quite small.
A greater percentage of children considered highly anxious had special needs and English or French as a second language than non-anxious children. Other research has also documented associations between anxiety and second language learning and between anxiety and special needs. We found:
- 14.2 per cent of children considered highly anxious had either English or French as a second language. This rate is significantly higher than 12.9 per cent of non-anxious kids who spoke English or French as a second language;
- 11.1 per cent of children considered highly anxious were classified as having special needs (compared to 3.4 per cent of non-anxious kids). The EDI captures “special needs” when a child has a medical diagnosis or the teacher has observed the child needs assistance in class above and beyond what the average child requires.
To put these figures in perspective, most children considered highly anxious speak the language of school instruction as their home language (85.8 per cent) and don’t have special needs (89 per cent).
Valuable source of information
Our study demonstrates that teacher reports of children’s behaviours at school, an environment that might cause some children to be anxious, can be a valuable source of information on anxiety in kindergarteners. Our study supports the idea that anxiety and other aspects of development are closely intertwined.
Results of this study can provide important information for policy. For example, schools with high rates of anxious children may be encouraged to put into practice class-level activities to reduce the long-term effects of anxiety in kindergarten.
Or, board-wide curriculum, educational services or programming could be developed and monitored to determine how these are meeting particular groups of children’s needs: experts in language learning and early childhood education may be able to suggest interventions to reduce anxiety of students whose home language differs from the language of instruction.
Finally, this study also provides baseline estimates of anxiety symptoms among kindergarten-aged children in Canada. These could, in future, be compared to data collected with the same method in kindergarten-aged students across Canada post-COVID-19.
Caroline Reid-Westoby, Research Associate, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences, McMaster University and Magdalena Janus, Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences, McMaster University
This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.