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Trends in childhood and adolescent internalizing symptoms: Results from Swedish population based twin cohorts

Journal article
Authors Natalie Durbeej
Karolina Sörman
Eva Norén Selinus
Sebastian Lundström
Paul Lichtenstein
Clara Hellner
Linda Halldner
Published in BMC Psychology
Volume 7
Publication year 2019
Published at Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology
Gillberg Neuropsychiatry Centre
Centre for Ethics, Law, and Mental Health
Language en
Links doi.org/10.1186/s40359-019-0326-8
Keywords Adolescence, Childhood, Epidemiology, Internalizing, Prevalence
Subject categories Epidemiology

Abstract

© 2019 The Author(s). Background: Previous research has noted trends of increasing internalizing problems (e.g., symptoms of depression and anxiety), particularly amongst adolescent girls. Cross-cohort comparisons using identical assessments of both anxiety and depression in youth are lacking, however. Methods: In this large twin study, we examined trends in internalizing symptoms in samples of 9 year old children and 15 year old adolescents, gathered from successive birth cohorts from 1998 to 2008 (age 9) and 1994-2001 (age 15). Assessments at age 9 were parent-rated, and at age 15 self- and parent-rated. We examined (i) the relation between birth cohorts and internalizing symptoms using linear regressions, and (ii) whether percentages of participants exceeding scale cut-off scores changed over time, using Cochrane Armitage Trend Tests. Results: Among 9 year old children, a significantly increasing percentage of participants (both boys and girls) had scores above cut-off on anxiety symptoms, but not on depressive symptoms. At age 15, a significantly increasing percentage of participants (both boys and girls) had scores above cut-off particularly on self-reported internalizing symptoms. On parent-reported internalizing symptoms, only girls demonstrated a corresponding trend. Conclusion: In line with previous studies, we found small changes over sequential birth cohorts in frequencies of depression and anxiety symptoms in children. Further, these changes were not exclusive to girls.

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