Anxiety and Depression During Childhood and Adolescence: Testing Theoretical Models of Continuity and Discontinuity

Joseph R. Cohen, Arthur R Andrews III, Megan M. Davis, Karen D. Rudolph

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

5 Scopus citations


The present study sought to clarify the trajectory (i.e., continuous vs. discontinuous) and expression (i.e., homotypic vs. heterotypic) of anxiety and depressive symptoms across childhood and adolescence. We utilized a state-of-the-science analytic approach to simultaneously test theoretical models that describe the development of internalizing symptoms in youth. In a sample of 636 children (53% female; M age = 7.04; SDage = 0.35) self-report measures of anxiety and depression were completed annually by youth through their freshman year of high school. For both anxiety and depression, a piecewise growth curve model provided the best fit for the data, with symptoms decreasing until age 12 (the “developmental knot”) and then increasing into early adolescence. The trajectory of anxiety symptoms was best described by a discontinuous homotypic pattern in which childhood anxiety predicted adolescent anxiety. For depression, two distinct pathways were discovered: A discontinuous homotypic pathway in which childhood depression predicted adolescent depression and a discontinuous heterotypic pathway in which childhood anxiety predicted adolescent depression. Analytical, methodological, and clinical implications of these findings are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1295-1308
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Abnormal Child Psychology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Aug 1 2018



  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Discontinuity
  • Growth curve modeling
  • Heterotypic

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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