Children and Teens Worry About Political Issues

Jim Liebelt

*The following is excerpted from an online article posted on ScienceDaily.

Many surveys of American adults have revealed that they worry about political issues and are concerned about the future of the United States. But what about children and teenagers?

A new psychological study, published in the journal Child Psychiatry and Human Development, is believed to be the first to examine youths' worry about political issues, and it suggests that children and teens are worried too. The study also found that the worries experienced by children and teenagers reflect many sides of a political issue; the findings pertain to youth across the political spectrum. It's unclear that children's and teens' worry is a cause for concern, or that it is interfering with their mental health functioning.

Typically, worry about political issues has not been on psychologists' radars when assessing mental health. Since the 2016 presidential election in the United States, however, Americans' anxiety about political issues have come into focus. More adults are reporting to therapists feelings of anxiety about political issues, and even before the 2016 contest, the American Psychological Association surveyed Americans and found political issues to be a "significant source of stress" for both Republicans and Democrats.

Until now, there has been little, if any, attention paid to youths' worry about political issues. Realizing this, American University Assistant Professor of Psychology Nicole Caporino devised a psychological measure to gauge how frequently youth are worrying, if at all, and which political issues they are worried about most. A child clinical psychologist who specializes in child anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder, Caporino leads the Clinic for Youth Anxiety and Related Disorders at AU. The clinic provides assessment and therapy for children and adolescents ages 4 through 17 years old. Caporino supervises a staff of clinical psychology doctoral students who work with the youth and provide these services.

The study surveyed caregivers of children and teenagers from across the United States. More than 370 caregivers of youth 6 to 17 years old participated. Caregivers identified as independents, Republicans or Democrats. Selecting from a number of worries related to 15 voting issues, caregivers rated the frequency of their child's anxiety. For the majority of voting issues, more than half of caregivers indicated that their child experienced at least one relevant worry. Worries about the environment and gun violence were most common, followed by worry related to the economy, treatment of racial/ethnic minorities, foreign policy and terrorism.

Source: ScienceDaily