Combining child social skills training with a parent early intervention program for inhibited preschool children

Elizabeth X. Lau, Ronald M. Rapee*, Robert J. Coplan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Previous studies have demonstrated the efficacy of early intervention for anxiety in preschoolers through parent-education. The current study evaluated a six-session early intervention program for preschoolers at high risk of anxiety disorders in which a standard educational program for parents was supplemented by direct training of social skills to the children. Methods: Seventy-two children aged 3–5 years were selected based on high behavioural inhibition levels and concurrently having a parent with high emotional distress. Families were randomly assigned to either the intervention group, which consisted of six parent-education group sessions and six child social skills training sessions, or waitlist. After six months, families on waitlist were offered treatment consisting of parent-education only. Results: Relative to waitlist, children in the combined condition showed significantly fewer clinician-rated anxiety disorders and diagnostic severity and maternal (but not paternal) reported anxiety symptoms and life interference at six months. Mothers also reported less overprotection. These gains were maintained at 12-month follow-up. Parent only education following waitlist produced similar improvements among children. Quasi-experimental comparison between combined and parent-only interventions indicated greater reductions from combined intervention according to clinician reports, but no significant differences on maternal reports. Conclusions: Results suggest that this brief early intervention program for preschoolers with both parent and child components significantly reduces risk and disorder in vulnerable children. The inclusion of a child component might have the potential to increase effects over parent-only intervention. However, future support for this conclusion through long-term, randomised controlled trials is needed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)32-38
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Anxiety Disorders
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2017


  • childhood
  • prevention
  • preschool
  • social skills
  • parenting


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