Day-Wood, Leah (2020) Exploring Children’s Understanding of Anxiety. Masters thesis, University of Huddersfield.

The prevalence of anxiety disorders is a recognised worldwide problem. The number of referrals to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service in the United Kingdom (UK) has increased by 26% over the last five years. The UK government have issued several policies to shape the future of children’s mental health services. To ensure this is done effectively, it is crucial to assess young people’s perceptions and understanding of mental health. As such, the aim of this research was to explore children’s understanding of anxiety.

A literature review was conducted to determine existing knowledge in relation to children’s anxiety and the methodologies employed to inform the current study design. A qualitative exploratory approach was utilised using the Leventhal's Common-Sense Model to explore the five dimensions of anxiety (identity (appearance), cause, consequence, duration and treatments). The current research employed innovative creative methods and techniques, namely the ‘Draw and Write Technique’ in three individual focus groups, creating group drawings and answering cue card questions based on vignettes. Thematic analysis was used to analyse the transcribed verbal and visual data.

The current research demonstrates that children as young as eight years have some understanding about the five dimensions of anxiety. It was observed that children are more likely to seek support from their family as opposed to staff in school and have a limited knowledge about professionals who provide support for those with mental health problems. Furthermore, the children in the research had a limited understanding about the consequences and duration of anxiety.

The research broadens our knowledge of children’s understanding of anxiety and highlights some of the gaps in their understanding. The findings are significant in highlighting where developments in policy and practice could most usefully be focused. Future research directions and consequences for clinical practice are discussed.

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