Separation Anxiety in Children Ages 4 Through 9 With Oral Clefts

Background: Psychosocial research on children with oral clefts (OCs), i.e., clefts of the lip, palate, or lip and palate, has suggested that these children may have higher rates of anxiety in general, but overall results have been equivocal. In this study we estimated the prevalence of separation anxiety disorder (SAD) in a population-based sample of children with OCs and identified associated risk factors.

Methods: Parents of 279 children with OCs, identified through three state birth defect registries, responded to a postal survey that included the Separation Anxiety subscale of the Screen for Child Anxiety-Related Emotional Disorders (SCARED) and items regarding the child's OC and its sequelae, parent and child health, parent mental health, family structure, and socioeconomic status indicators. Associations with SA were evaluated using bivariate and multivariate statistics.

Results: One quarter (24%) of the children screened positive for SAD, which was substantially higher than the U.S. child population estimates of 3% to 5%. OC-related impairments in speaking and eating more than doubled the risk of SAD, as did lower socioeconomic status and lower maternal health rating. Maternal mental health and marital status remained in the logistic model but were not significant.

Conclusions: Children with OCs appear to be at increased risk for SAD as measured by the SCARED instrument. OC-related problems with speech and eating more than doubled the risk of SAD. The use of targeted screening tools may help refine our understanding of psychosocial adjustment in children with OCs.

Tyler, M., Wehby, G., Robbins, J., & Damiano, P. Separation Anxiety in Children Ages 4 Through 9 With Oral Clefts. 50 5 520 - 527. 10.1597/11-239.